Genealogical research: for beginners

What to do, where to look for your ancestors (family)

New to genealogy? Utilize these learning tools and resources.
National Genealogical Society:  Online and home study courses.
Studerhistory tips page:  Research tips and How-to's.
How to cite sources: Recording where you found information.

Work from the known to the unknown 
Collect information on current generations first. Start with yourself. Use the Start At Home Checklist. Gather information from family members; parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts. Record the data using genealogy software, or family group sheets. Be complete and consistent in recording data. Don't skip generations. Record your sources accurately and completely.

Collect family documents
Sometimes individuals in a family saved documents that contain clues and valuable information. Ask if anyone has a family bible, personal letters or a diary. And ask about records from a hospital, medical, school, employment or the military.

Obtain copies of vital records
Vital records include documents such as: birth, marriage, death and divorce records. Most U.S. states have maintained modern vital records since the beginning of this century. The "International Vital Records Handbook" and the booklet titled "Where to Write for Vital Records" will provide addresses and other helpful information. Some addresses now online.

Family History Center Libraries 
Online resources:     Family History Center locations     FHC information 
The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints has microfilmed vital, land, probate, tax and military records as well as state and federal censuses, family and local histories and numerous special collections. Their vast holdings are available in microfilm form through the more than 2000 Family History Centers located throughout the United States. 

Library Research 
Libraries with major genealogical collections are very useful, particularly once you have taken your ancestors back four generations or more. Such collections include compiled family histories and genealogies, local histories and reference materials which can be extremely helpful in your research. In addition most libraries have unique collections of unpublished materials including such things as Bible Records, surname files, etc.

U.S. Census Bureau
The Census Bureau is the federal government’s largest statistical agency. They collect and provide current facts and figures about America’s people, places, and economy. Federal law protects the confidentiality of all the information the Census Bureau collects. They collect: population and housing census every 10 years. Economic census every 5 years. Census of governments every 5 years. American community survey annually. And numerous other demographic and economic surveys. However, most family researchers are primarily interested in searching for people and households data. To access population, housing, economic and geographic information, search the U.S. Census Bureau's American FactFinder website.

National Archives 
United States National Archives is the primary source for U.S. Federal Census Records, Passenger Lists, Military Records, and some Naturalization records. Census records provide valuable information as to: residence, occupation, family members, year and country of birth. Available online: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration and at branch offices. Portions also available at your local history center, or local library.  -- Related resource.

Ellis Island 
The Statue of Liberty - Ellis Island genealogy tips. More than 22 million passengers and members of ships' crews entered the United States through Ellis Island and the Port of New York between 1892 and 1924. Information about each person was written down in ships' passenger lists, known as "manifests." Manifests were used to examine immigrants upon arrival in the United States. Search millions of records for information on individual Ellis Island passengers and more. Look under their Ellis Island TAB > subsections > Learn More & Search Ellis.

Places, Organizations, Agencies and Goverment 
When you are really serious about the research, search for these items.

  • various items to track down:  city directories, the Polk Directory, hospital and medical records, school and education records, organizations records, employment records, family bibles, letters, a diary, military records.
  • newspapers:  contact the local newspaper, find out if past issues are archived. In particular read the society pages, the gossip sections, who was ticketed, who was jailed, the obituaries.
  • local historical societies and genealogical clubs:  look through their records and archived files. go to the meetings and ask questions.
  • churches:  may provide vital statistcs on birth, marriage and death, which will generally include parent's, sponsors, godparents names. ask for sacramental registers such as baptisms, blessings, bar-mitzvahs, first communions, marriages, burials, church minutes.
  • courts and offices of record:  look at city, circuit, admiralty, chancery, county, state supreme, civil and criminal (docket books, minutes, final record books), deed books (land sales, may indicate the names of heirs).
  • libraries:  are vital resources for family history researchers. Libraries contain a lot of valuable information in private collections, or not available online. Take advantage of access to librarians with years of training in research methods and various subjects.
  • naturalization records:  U.S. naturalization records (citizenship papers) are usually the best source for determining an immigrant ancestor's town of origin.
  • probate records:  probate records can contain wills, estate settlements, inventories, and other information that may indicate relationships and addresses.
  • social security death index:  contains an index of 65 million U.S. residents who had social security numbers, and whose deaths were reported to the Social Security Administration between 1962 and the present. 
  • passenger lists:  passengers arriving at U.S. ports, have been maintained by the US Federal government since 1820.

Research links.   european  --  sites/links  --  tips/how-to's  --  vital records  --  blank forms/charts