Getting Started with Your Family Research

1. Gather what you already know about your family.
Take a shoebox or file folder and collect family records, old photos, letters, diaries, photocopies from family Bibles, even newspaper clippings. Any family related items you can gather. It's amazing how valuable some of those things will seem to you once you begin putting the details together.
Note: Many old records, especially photos, will be considered too sentimentally valuable for many family members to share. See if you can arrange to photocopy, or Scan them. If not, photographing them can put your family at ease about the items getting damaged or lost.

2. Talk to your relatives.
This is one of the most important items listed here! Ask your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles about their memories. It's important that you do not ask only about facts and dates, get the stories of their growing up and of the ancestors they remember. This aproach will bring out more information for you, and generate more memories from them. Try to phrase questions with "why," "how" and "what."

3. Write it all down!
Write down what you know so you can decide what you don't know yet. Start with a "pedigree" chart, or family fact sheet about every person you interview. Anything you do not write down will eventually be lost!

4. Focus your search.
Don't try to fill in all of the "blanks" at one time. Focus on someone from the most recent generation where your chart is missing information. Try to answer that "mystery" first, then work backward in time. OR Once you have a basic outline of your family, start with (Census, Cemetery, Death Index) or specific information to search for.

5. Search the Internet.
The Internet is undoubtably the best place to find leads and share information. Don't expect to "find your whole family tree" online. But many details may be found in old on-line city directories, church or marriage records, family or place forums, city or county history pages, war roster sites, and similar places.

6. Explore specific Web sites.
Once you've searched for the last names in your family, try Web sites specifically about your ethnic heritage or parts of the country where your relatives lived. You may even find Web sites about your family created by distant relatives researching the same family tree. Review past messages at family forums about your surname, or about the places they lived. Then post your own questions, some may never get answered, but some of your queries will generate important contacts and answers, sometimes within a few weeks!

7. Search for local information sites.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has more than 3,000 Family History Centers containing the world's largest collection of genealogical information. Libraries of all sizes usually have a genealogy section with local history, record transcriptions, cemetery listings and other historical books and details.

8. Study the records.
Using your local Family History Center or library, you can borrow microfilm of records such as the birth, marriage or death certificates of your ancestors. More than 2 million rolls of microfilmed records from all over the world are available. Compare the information in these sources with what you already know, fill in the blanks in your family tree, and look for clues to more answers to the puzzles of your past. You will probably remember some obsceur fact eventually, that will lead you to solving family links. (Know your facts)

9. Organize any new information as soon as possible.
Enter your findings in family tree software programs or on paper charts at least. (make sure you note EVERY source). Noting sources seems like a huge waste of time, until you need to know where you found that one fact! (& you will) Your data will be challenged by family or other researchers, and a source will be necessary. File your records and notes by family, geography or source so you can refer to them again. A good file system could speed up your searches by years!

You may want to travel to places your ancestors lived, to visit courthouses, churches, cemeteries and other places where old records are kept. Finding a long-lost relative's birth and death dates, in the middle of a cemetery or in some old courthouse records can be like solving a great mystery. These little finds are what fuel the ever-growing group of happy genealogists.