Getting Started

Getting Started in Genealogy
Compiled by Dan Hyde


I have found that the best way to start a family history is to ask ALL of your older relatives to relate anything they can remember about the family. You will find that some of the stories have been “colored in” over the years to make them more exciting, but most have a small kernel of truth in there somewhere. I have found that several visits may be required to draw out the information. Try to get a copy of your grandparents’ birth certificates and marriage licenses.


You need to work from “now” to “then,” taking small steps. Perhaps your interviews with older relatives will give the death dates and places of your grandparents. Then you can write to (preferably visit) the county where they died and also where they were buried (if different) to find their obituaries. When researching obituaries, read each line separately and record any information you find. Many times, the brothers and sisters of the deceased person will be listed with their place of residence and you can trace them IF you are unable to trace your grandparents.


You should be able to determine facts about your grandparents and possibly great-grand parents. I think you should record the full names, date of birth and place, marriages and place and deaths and place of all your DIRECT ancestors, for example, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents. Also, record brothers and sisters of all these people if you can find them. Record any second marriages and the children of direct ancestors. I use family group sheets to record this info. If you need a copy of the charts, you can print them off the web (see below).


FREE Pedigree Chart


Compile facts such as full name, dates of birth, marriage and death, and exact place of birth, marriage, residence and death. Place is important for searching the appropriate court houses and historical centers. Note that parishes, counties and jurisdictions change over time, so note any changes.


The reason you need to record the dates and places is to identify the correct individual later when you want to visit a library or court house. A good approach to genealogical research is to visit the county where your relatives lived and search in the historical section of the County Library and the County Court House. Be warned that many times, two or three individuals with the same name will be in the county. Many times accurate dates and places along with lists of sisters and brothers allows you to sort out the correct relative.


See the following web sites for information on getting started in genealogy:


Beginner’s Guide on Rootsweb

Getting Started in Genealogy and Family History

Other great sites Cyndi’s list of genealogy sites on Internet.

The following is a list compiled by Nancy Ann Jackson for a workshop. She has graciously given me permission to use it. I have made some minor changes. Dan


Growing a Family Genealogy Tree
By Nancy Ann Jackson


I. Where to Start-Seeds and Roots

A. Yourself/immediate family; writing your Biography

B. Decision to do Direct Line or Direct and Collateral Lines

C. Difference between Primary and Secondary Resources

D. Importance of Documentation

E. Writing letters/submitting queries/importance of SASE

[Send a Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope (SASE) if you want a response!]

II. The Trunk

A. Marriages

B. Births

C. Deaths

D. Census Records – gleanings from Census Records.

III. Branching Out

A. Wills/Fiduciary Records

B. Deeds

C. Land records and tax records

D. Veteran’s Pension Records

IV. Really Going Out On a Limb

A. Chancery Records

B. Minute Books

C. Divorce Records

D. Petitions

V. Putting the Blossoms on the Tree

A. Sketches of Individuals

B. Pictures

C. Historical Context in which the Individual Lived In

D. Ship Passenger Lists

E. Migration Pattern

VI. Repairing a Lost Branch – Finding an Elusive Relative

VII. Summary of the Care and Feeding Of Your Genealogical Tree

A. Record Keeping

B. Once again, importance of documentation

C. Allowing the Tree to Stay Alive by Leaving its Legacy for the Enjoyment of others.

D. It takes time and patience for a tree to grow

VIII. Bibliography [References]

I know this is a lot. But I place emphasis on Primary Resources!! Nancy Ann Jackson