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Getting Started in Genealogy

Genealogy is an activity that is shared by many hobbyists and professionals worldwide. It is the study of ancestral history, often with the goal of determining a family’s origin. While genealogy can be quite complex and challenging, it can also be quite simple and exciting. When getting started in family tree research, there are some genealogical standards that are useful to know.

1) Always start with what you know. Genealogy is not about choosing an early ancestor and trying to determine a relationship. Rather it is about beginning with yourself, or your parents, and working backwards. Interview family members, such as your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, about what they know about their parents, grandparents, etc. The more information you can get from your living family members, the better luck you will have locating ancestors who are now deceased.

2) Create a pedigree chart for your family. Begin with yourself as person number one. Fill in your chart as completely as you can, listing names, birth dates, death dates, and marriage dates. This will give you a good start in knowing where to begin your actual genealogical research.

3) Work with one surname at a time, and stick with researching only your direct lineage (grandparents, great grandparents, 2nd-great grandparents, and so on). Trying to take on too much at once may overwhelm you. As you gain experience, you can move onto other surnames, and even extended relatives.

4) You may want to consider investing in a genealogy software program to help organize your research. However, this can probably wait until you have been researching for a little while. If you chose not to purchase a software program right away, be sure to develop another organizing method for all of your information.

5) Begin your research on the Internet. Check online genealogical databases (some are free, while others charge a fee), message boards, and virtual cemeteries for information about your ancestors. You may be able to locate other genealogists who are researching a common ancestor and willing to share their information with you. While it is useful and exciting to connect with long-lost relatives, remember to always verify their sources. There is a lot of inaccurate information out there.

6) Take your research on-location by visiting town clerks offices, libraries, and courthouses in your ancestor’s hometowns to search for records. You will be especially interested in finding certificates of births, deaths, and marriages, obituaries, and military records. There are, by far, many more other types of genealogical records available as well.