Spending time with family over the holidays or on a special occasion often sparks the desire to begin genealogy research. Where and How to begin your research quickly become questions to answer.
Genealogy may seem like a complicated process for the newbie, but the first steps – those beginner genealogy steps – are not. The first steps in genealogy are fairly straight forward and once mastered will give you a great foundation for further pursuit of your ancestors.
Because, of course, you will be hooked!
Note: If you have been researching genealogy for a while now and are not technically a beginner, READ ON! Going back to the basics is a good exercise for all researchers.
Genealogy For Beginners – First Steps
1. Start With What You Know – Resist the urge to dive right into internet research. You likely have some of the answers you are seeking within your own family. You and/or your family know more than you think you do.
Start with yourself, your parents, grandparents…. – record what you know. It’s okay if you are not sure if your information is not 100% correct, it is a good starting place.
Don’t neglect your family’s oral history! While oral history is often not completely accurate, it is often based on fact. Contained in your family’s oral history are clues you can use in your research. Read more about oral history here.
2.Seek Out Vital Records – Birth, Marriage and Death Records – Vital records such as birth certificates, marriage certificates and death certificates are all well…vital…to your genealogy research! These records show full names, addresses/locations, birth dates, occupation, spouse’s name, and very importantly parent’s names!
Vital records are relatively easy to find. Often these types of documents are tucked in a box somewhere or in the Family Bible. If you do not have them, they are usually easy to order from a county or state’s vital records office. Vital records can potentially be found online at the major genealogy databases such as Ancestry.com, FindMyPast, MyHeritage and FamilySearch.
3.Explore the Census Records – Census records are a great first place to begin your online genealogy research. Released to the public 72 years after their completion, the census will place a person (or family) in place and time as well as provide information about a person, the neighbors and the community decade by decade. U.S. Censuses found for free online at FamilySearch can trace a family back decade by decade.
4. Record What You Find – Write down what you learn about your ancestors. Most genealogy researchers record their ancestral findings in a family tree software such as Family Tree Maker or RootsMagic. You also have many online options to record a family tree at the large genealogy databases such as Ancestry.com, FindMyPast, MyHeritage and FamilySearch.
Tip: Be careful using other researchers’ family tree in your research. Errors abound in online family trees. Always verify any information as correct before adding it to your own tree.
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Need More Guidance To Start Your Genealogy Research?
Sometimes we need a bit more guidance to start a new project like genealogy research. If that’s you, take a look at the Family Tree: The Ultimate Kit from Family-Tree. [No longer available.]
The kit itself is full of genealogy goodies, but for beginners the booklets are a gold mine of tips and strategies for researching your ancestors. The Ultimate Kit includes 4 booklets, a calendar to keep up with your research plan, a flash drive to store and back up your research and….a coffee mug for those late night research sessions(!). Start with the How to Start Your Family Tree and learn the basics.
Then move on to The First Steps, Next Steps and Further Steps booklets to start researching and recording your family history. For the beginner researcher, having easy genealogy research steps all in one place plus a way to record and back up your new research makes the Ultimate Kit a great place to start.
I’m quite thrilled with the booklets. While I am not a new genealogy researcher, I am very much a beginner when it comes to researching my UK ancestors. The First Steps, Next Steps and Further Steps booklets are helping me begin to navigate my own personal UK genealogy research into my Talbott ancestors.
One thing to note: The Family Tree: The Ultimate Kit [no longer available] is from Family-Tree is a UK company not to be confused with FamilyTree Magazine. The basic strategies are solid genealogy research concepts. The record sets referred to in the booklets are for UK records. I received a complimentary Family Tree: The Ultimate Kit from Family-Tree. The opinions stated are my own.
Other Posts of Interests
- Free Genealogy Websites – A Frugal Genealogist’s Guide
- How to Create Your Genealogy Research Plan
- What is that Family Cemetery Really Telling You?
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