Begin Your Genealogy Quest
There are many reasons why people begin researching their family history. A person may want to join a lineage society, such as the National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), or find the town in the old country where the family originated. Others seek to understand their own traits and characteristics by learning about grandparents and other relatives, or they may want to have a reunion of all the descendants of a pioneer settler. Latter-day Saints (Mormons) desire to share religious blessings with their deceased relatives. All of these, and many others, are good reasons.
Regardless of the reasons, each person seeking to learn about their family history is embarking on a quest. Just like the journeys of pioneer ancestors, such quests may seem almost impossible or never-ending. However, a quest is just an “over-all” goal and like every other journey, proceeds one step at a time.
As with every journey, you will have to set and reach several intermediate goals in succession during this quest. In family history, goals often focus on learning about an ancestor or family. Later in the research process, you will learn how to further break these goals into specific achievable research objectives that will keep you on the path, goal by goal toward achieving your quest.
At least part of the overall quest should involve sharing what you find. For example, publish a family history, put up a website, or contribute to the Family Tree or Pedigree Resource File.
How to Get Started on Your Quest
- The first step is always to start with yourself, but before you begin, you need to decide where you are going to preserve your genealogy?
- Preserve your genealogy by opening a free account on FamilySearch.org. Click here to register.
- FamilySearch gives you access to your genealogy and the ability to enter new information from any computer in the world.
- Other family members can have access to it as well on their computers.
- Not only is your genealogy preserved forever, but you can preserve photographs, documents, journals, stories and memories so they are not lost to time or natural disaster.
- You can also print any of the genealogy or memories you have entered for family and friends who may not have internet access.
First Step - Let's Begin With You
- After you have opened your account, go to the Family Tree.
- When the pedigree chart opens you will see your name in the first box on the left.
- Click on your name and begin by entering your information in the appropriate places about yourself.
Follow these guidelines for entering genealogical information:
- Use full names when recording names. There will be a place to enter nicknames, titles, and relationships such as Junior, etc.
- Do NOT use all caps for surnames. This is an archaic convention from the days when group sheets were filled out by hand or on a typewriter to quickly identify a surname.
- Record only the maiden names for all females. You will not be able to trace your grand mother's ancestry with her married name.
- If you know only her first name, you might record, for example: Jane.
- Record the dates as done in Europe: day, month and year.
- For example: 24 April 2001.
- To record a location, start from the smallest entity to the largest such as city, county, state, country.
- For a person born in the USA, an example would be:Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States.
- If a person was not born in a city and you know the county, you might record just the county and state: Cook, Illinois, United States.
- If you only know the state, you will record: Illinois, United States.
- If you only know the country you will record: "United States".
- In other parts of the world, locations may be: City, Province, Country. For example: Chester, Cheshire, England or Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico.
- Recording a Place Name - Different Options - There are several options to record a place name:
Second Step - Record Family Members
- Next enter information on your spouse and your children.
- Then you enter information about your parents.
- Click on Add Parent and fill in what you know about them.
- Add your brothers and sisters as well.
- It will be interesting to see just how much you know about them.
Records Around the House
- After filling in as much as you know, Look around the house for documents that will help you fill in the blanks such as:
- Certificates - Birth, Marriage, and Death
- Diaries, Journals
- Obituaries, newspaper articles
- Anything else that might contain family information
- You might consider gathering everything into a box so you can keep track of what you have found.
Smart Researching Procedures
1. Recording Your Sources of Information
- You should record your sources for the information you record in your genealogy whether it be from a birth certificate, for example, or your own memory.
- For example, is the birth date of Aunt Betty from personal knowledge or did you get it from a record in a family bible or was it given to you by a family member's personal knowledge?
- You can be sure that in the future you will be grateful that you recorded your sources. While doing genealogy, it is common to meet other distant relatives who will either appreciate your evidence or sometimes challenge your sources.
- Recording sources is an important part of doing your genealogy. Check out Cite Your Sources.
2. Create a "To Do List"
- The next step is to create a list of information that you need to fill in the blanks.
- Here you will list in detail the specific pieces of information you are hoping to find. For example: What is the birthday of Aunt Betty?
- Then you will write down where you might find that information such as: "Ask my cousin George the birth date of his mother" or "Find aunt Betty's burial location and headstone."
- Again, record exactly what pieces of information you need to find and where or how you plan to search for it.
- Here is a sample To Do List
- An additional benefit when asking a specific questions about an ancestor is that it occasionally brings to mind other facts connected to the event. Be prepare to take down additional information.
3. Be Precise in Questioning
- It is important to be precise in your questions.
- Ask for one fact at a time in each question!
- Ask for such things as when was the individual born, where were they born, when did they die, and where were they buried, etc.
- Pay close attention to the responses you get. You might hear some interesting stories which should probably be recorded under Memories In FamilySearch.org.
4. Research Logs
Because you will probably look through thousands of sources over the years it is important to keep track of what you have researched and your results.
- If you had researched the town vital records, for example, looking for your great-grandfather John Smith and did not find him, make a note so you won't waste time looking at it again because you can't remember if you have already looked in it. You can download an example here of a Research Logs or
Step Three: Family and Friends
- Next step in your research is talking to family members and friends of the family to fill in the blanks.
- They will often have lovely old photographs that you haven't seen that they are willing to share.
- Make copies for your personal collection and submit them to FamilySearch.org so as to be preserved forever.
Step Four: How The FamilySearch Wiki Can Help You