You and your family are the best places to start your genealogy research. First, write down everything you know about all your family members. Use photo albums and other memorabilia in your possession to enhance your list. Next, talk to your parents, grandparents, and other relatives to supplement the information you have gathered. Check with other families to see if anyone has started researching the family tree. Also, talk to people in the communities where your family lived. They may be very knowledgeable about your family members and have many stories to share.
Respect people’s privacy and understand that not everyone in your family may share your enthusiasm for learning the family history. Don’t discount any information as too small or insignificant. Sometimes an off-hand comment or statement may lead to a wealth of information. If a discovery does not seem important at the time, do not throw the information away. Instead, file it in a safe location where it can be retrieved at a later time.
Read books and articles to learn the correct methods for performing genealogy research. I highly recommend the following books.
- Black Roots: A Beginners Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree by Tony Burroughs. This book is an excellent reference for both beginner and experienced family historians. It describes methods and techniques for performing research and uses case histories involving Burroughs’s family history as examples. The book focuses on African American genealogy research, but the general research techniques are helpful to anyone performing genealogy research.
- Courthouse Research for Family Historians by Christine Rose provides step-by-step details on using and interpreting courthouse records while performing genealogy research. It is an excellent resource for any family historian.
The internet provides access to numerous resources that will help your genealogy research.
- Ancestry.com is an online subscription-based genealogy website that provides access to numerous databases. I have found the following databases to be an invaluable asset to my genealogy research and worth the subscription price alone:
- US Federal Census Records from 1790-1950
- Birth, Marriage, and Death Records, including the Social Security Death Index (SSDI)
- Military Records including WWI (1917-1918) & WWI (1942) Draft Registration Cards
- Directories such as US Public Records Index, as well as, Phone and Address Directories
In addition to the databases, the site also has:
- Court Land and Probate Records
- Family Trees
- Historical Newspapers
- Immigration Records
- and much more
Ancestry.com has been one of the most valuable resources for my genealogy research. Check with your local library if you prefer not to subscribe to the site. Many libraries provide access to the site for users with a library card.
- Family Search provides free access to the census and other records used for genealogy research.
- Online Libraries contain an extensive collection of digitized books and newspapers. You can search by subject or title, as well as save books in your library. I have located many out-of-print books that have been helpful to my genealogy research. Some sites are Google Books, Google News Archive, Internet Archive, and Fold3.com. Except for Fold3.com, all of the sites are free.
- Find A Grave is an excellent resource for locating the graves of your ancestors. You can also add information to the repository. Membership is free.