Local History & Genealogy -

Starting Your Family Tree

Read "How-To" Books

Those beginning to research their family genealogy for the first time will find it extremely useful to consult books on how to research family history. This will help familiarize you with the research process, with the basic sources of genealogical information, and with various record keeping methods.

Narrow Search 

The next step is to narrow your search to a specific branch of the family. This is important in order to keep your project manageable and to be able to organize the information you find.  Begin with yourself and work back through time. If you ignore this rule you will have great difficulty connecting possible ancestors to yourself.

Conduct a Home Survey

A surprising amount of genealogical information can often be found at home. Some of the sources include family bibles, captions on photographs, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, diaries, funeral prayer cards, official documents and even samplers and engraved wedding bands.

Family Group Sheets and Ancestral Charts

Using a Family Group Sheet form is a useful way of recording information about the family unit, husband, wife and children. Begin by filling out a Family Group Sheet for yourself. Then make sheets for your parents, grandparents, and so forth, as far back as you know information. You will eventually want to have a Family Group Sheet for each of your direct ancestors.

Next, fill in an Ancestral Chart. An ancestral chart records information about the ancestors from whom you directly descend. It summarizes information on the Family Group Sheet and will help you keep track of names and relationships.

Interview Family Members

One of the best sources of information about ancestors is a relative, Talk with older family members and if you can visit them do so. If possible, use a tape recorder, if not take notes. Go armed with Family Group Sheets and Pedigree Charts and try to fill in as much information as possible. Also, just let your relatives reminisce. Take down names, family stories, physical descriptions etc., and sort and organize the information later.

Ask your relatives if they have family Bibles, letters, photos or memorabilia that might supply information or clues.

REMEMBER: Information from relatives may or may not be accurate. Use it as a guide for further research. Always verify this information with primary source records if possible.

Organize Data

Begin to organize the data you are collecting. Keep a file for each Head of Household for whom you are searching.  Into the file will also go any information obtained on his or her spouse and children. You will want to use a numbering system to keep your generations in the correct order. Several systems are described in the book, Managing a Genealogical Project by William Dollarhide.