Any attempt by us to write about the general process of genealogical research would barely scratch the surface of the many books, articles and YouTube videos published on this subject that lie beyond the door opened by Googling the topic. Instead, we are pleased to save you time by providing some of the best, free-access sites we and our members have found useful. In addition, here and there we add a few insights and ideas, plus references to supportive sections of the PGSA website.
We wish you the best experience on your journey through time, place and family history.
General Sites About Getting Started in Genealogy
- An excellent place for all types of information and guidance in addition to the databases is Family Search from the Mormon Church. For an excellent collection of essays on starting and developing your genealogical program, visit their: Family History for Beginners
- A short, but excellent supplement to the information at Family Search is a checklist from the National Archives: National Archives
- Another well organized, detailed site to help you begin on a clear path is from the New England Historic Genealogical Society
- And the National Genealogical Society lists helpful guidance on 14 very important “Getting Started” topics.
Key Actions When Starting
When opening to the first blank page of your family history, begin filing the pages with the all the information you have near at hand. That comes from your living family and the documents they possess.
- Interview Parents, Grandparents and Relatives – These are the people who have the facts, the histories, the stories and the documents to point you in the right direction (and sometimes in the wrong direction) to prepare the groundwork for your future construction.
- Record Oral Histories Of Family Stories – In addition to taking notes, consider recording the conversations. This is especially valuable when they relate stories and event. A recording captures all the details, word for word.
- Find Family Parishes and Cemeteries – This information is invaluable for discovering many vital records. What people have forgotten, or not remembered correctly, parish records and grave stones often reveal or correct.
- Collect Dates and Places of Events – In addition to where individuals were born, married, dies and were buried, seek out the addresses where they lived, the schools they attended, where and for whom they worked, to what organizations they belonged, etc. Gather as many dates that correspond to these events. These facts can be very useful in locating census records, parishes to which they belonged and sources of other information.
- Locate as many documents, photographs, diaries, scrapbooks, memorabilia and anything else that provides an insight into the lives and locations of your ancestors, or is a signpost pointing to other locations for information. With photographs, try to have identified as many people as possible and the event and place at which it was taken. Pencil the information on the reverse being sure to note how your written names and relationships refer back to the positions of people in the photo. It is a great loss to have a collection of ancestral images but not to know who was who.
Organizing Your Research
As your databases and holdings of documents appear to grow exponentially, from the start you need to have an organizational plan to prevent your drowning in an ocean of uncorrelated information. As you found in the getting started guides, setting objectives with a course of action toward what you what to discover and accomplish is necessary to set your direction. It also is vital in determining how you will organize you data. There are a variety of approaches, both hard copy and on computer. Here are some sources for your consideration.
- Once again an excellent place to start is the Organizing Your Files page on the Family Search site.
- This article from Family Tree Magazine identifies 27 habits of highly-organized genealogists plus links to more material.
- Of course, you need forms to record and correlate the data being accumulated. Beyond lined paper and 3-by-5 cards, you want to consider standardized genealogical forms. A selection of these can be acquired at no cost from Ancestry.com.
- From there, moving your data to a software system allows you to create trees and other reports plus save and protect your data in an electronic format. The New England Historic Genealogical Society provides a good comparative list of genealogy software.
- Finally, searching by “organizing genealogy records” and similar key words on GOOGLE and YOU TUBE will result in a very large number of offerings to explore.