How to Trace Your Family Tree

Suggestions for the Beginning Genealogist:

Genealogy is the record or account derived from the search for your family. Yet, it is more than a list of people, places and dates. It is the total experience that one goes through learning about his/her family. Genealogy is the world’s most popular hobby. You can start anytime, take a break and pick it up anytime with ease. There are three areas to search:

  • Yourself, parents, family, friends and relatives
  • Public records, local, county, state, federal, world
  • Private materials such as books, agencies, church

The following steps will get you started:

  1. Start with yourself and work from the present to the past.
    Keep in mind who you are searching for; it’s your genealogy. BEGIN to record events (names, dates, places), COLLECT all records, and LIMIT your research.
  2. At home, locate your family records. Prepare an area to keep your records reasonably safe.
    (personal papers letters/diaries/scrapbooks, high school yearbooks awards and recognition/diplomas, birth/marriage certificate funeral/mass cards/bibles, mortgage/deeds newspaper articles, snapshots/photos)
  3. Searching Outside the Home. Keep records, time plays tricks on us.
    (compile family information, collect data & documents, write to relatives note other cities states, take oral interviews, identify people and addresses)
  4. At Your Public Library. They are ready to help.
    (begin at the info desk or reference section learn to use interlibrary loan, identify materials available begin to search documents, check out and read materials, investigate equipment)
  5. At the Courthouse. Some counties do not permit public searches. Obtain a directory of offices and services register of deeds (birth, marriage, death), probate office (wills probated and those filled out but not probated), Clerk of Courts, Land Sales (property transfers, sales index), and other offices.
  6. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Family History Center). Become acquainted with available services, request assistance with out of area materials, and foreign research options.
  7. General Research Suggestions. Establish a pattern. Make backup copies or duplicate records, store duplicates elsewhere,
    print clearly, limit abbreviations, bring basic facts with you on searches, record document sources and location, keep a research inventory up to date, check spelling variations and cultural differences, be consistent and systematic, prepare a search goal, and ask for help when necessary.
  8. Organize Your Information. Share your findings with the family. Use standardized forms and format, purchase professional charts and forms, color code your filing system, write your family narrative history, plan your activities, and be patient; it may take years.