Just starting your family history research? Wondering where to start researching your ancestors? Explore these tips and strategies for beginning your genealogy research.
Genealogy Research,  How To Trace Your Family Tree

Genealogy For Beginners – Start Finding Your Ancestors!

Have you been wondering how to begin your genealogy research? I’ve got you covered!

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.

🤩 Need extra help? Grab the Master Class: How to Search for Your Ancestor’s Date of Birth.

Why Even Start the Search for Your Ancestors

Diving into your family roots is like unlocking a treasure chest of awesomeness! Picture this: discovering the quirks of your great-great-grandma and realizing you inherited her epic dance moves – it’s a genetic party you didn’t know you were invited to! Some of those research benefits include:

  • You can connect the dots and rediscover your roots!
  • You strengthen those family bonds!
  • Discover a sense of belonging to your community.
  • Discover your family’s medical history, too.

Genealogy For Beginners – First Steps

Let’s get you started on your first steps to find your ancestors and grow your family tee.

Step 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, take note of it anyway. It is a good starting place.

Don’t neglect your family’s oral history! This is one of the most overlooked research steps I see new researchers make.

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.

Step 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!

Potentially, 2-3 generations can be found on a given vital record! That makes it worth the search for those records.

Birth Certificate for James Lester Howard

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.

🤩 Learn more in Find Extra Clues in an Ancestor’s Delayed Birth Certificate.

Step 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.

1910 Census entry for Merritt J Talbott
1910 Census for Merritt J. Talbott (Source: Ancestry.com )

Step 4: Record What You Find

What I’m really saying is to document your research!

There is no need for you to flashback to high school English class and all those footnotes and bibliographies. What

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.

Just starting your family history research? Wondering where to start researching your ancestors? Explore these tips and strategies for beginning your genealogy research.

Quick Tips for Beginning Your Genealogy Research

As you seek those ancestors, remember these tips as you go.

Tip #1: Be open to name variations and spellings.

Grandma Margaret might have fancied herself as Margie on those old census records, and Uncle William could easily morph into Will, Bill, or even Wally. Open your mind to the creative spellings and nicknames that could be hiding in the historical archives. It’s like deciphering a secret code – the key to unlocking a treasure trove of ancestral connections. So, be flexible, stay curious, and let the name variations lead you down the rabbit hole of your family’s unique linguistic journey.

Tip #2: Look on both sides of a border.

Don’t let county or state lines limit your genealogical quest. Ancestors were the original boundary-breakers, and their records might be scattered on both sides of the divide.

So, expand your search horizons and venture into the neighboring territories. Grandma might have crossed state lines for love, and Uncle Joe could be hiding in census records just a stone’s throw away from his hometown.

The genealogy treasure hunt knows no borders, and by exploring both sides of the county or state divide, you might just stumble upon the missing puzzle pieces that complete your family history masterpiece.

Tip #3: Beware of Online Family Trees

Online family trees are like a potluck – you never know what you’re getting!

Double-check those facts because, let’s face it, not everyone is a meticulous family historian. Your great-uncle Bob might not have actually ridden a unicorn, despite what that online family tree insists.

Trust, but verify.

Final Thoughts

Unlocking your family history isn’t just about dusty dates and faded photos, it’s about unearthing a vibrant tapestry woven from your ancestors’ triumphs and quirks.

Imagine pirates, suffragettes, inventors – each a glint of gold in the treasure chest of your past. Embrace the thrill of the hunt, befriend the family archivist, dive into online archives, and join the passionate community of genealogists.

Remember, your family story is waiting to be written, so grab your shovel and start digging! And hey, if you get stuck, check out my other posts for more tips and tricks to guide you on your genealogical adventure. Happy hunting!

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