At some point in most people’s lives they decide that they would like to know more about their family and their ancestors. This can seem like a daunting task, where does one start?
~Get a genealogy program.
There are many genealogy programs that you can purchase, but you don’t need to. One very good genealogy program is available as shareware Brothers Keeper. You can down load the program at their website. If you would like to receive updates and a book then you will need to buy the program but for a beginner, you can get along quite well without doing that.
~Start Family Group Sheets
The first thing you are going to do is to write down what you know on a family group sheet. If you have a genealogy program you can create family group sheets and print them out. It helps to highlight the dates that you are missing on your sheet so that you know what information you will start looking for.
~Interview family members
Now it is time to talk to all the most senior members of your family. You want fact and dates but also write down the family stories. Some of these may be legends other myths. There may be grains of truth and hints of mysteries. Even in the myths there are often little gems of information to be gleaned.
Once you have taken these steps it is time to head to the Internet to look for additional information. Can you do all your genealogy research on the Internet? No, you can’t at some point you are going to have to do some local research but for now we will take the easy route.
Before we go any farther we need to discuss sources. They are many kinds of sources, some are primary sources and some are secondary sources. You always want to find primary sources, you only use secondary sources as a last resort and to be able to count a secondary source as true you need to have it verified by at least another secondary source.
For every piece of information you add to your genealogy, you need to list the source of the information. There is nothing worse than coming back to a piece of information in your genealogy and not being able to remember where you found that information.
~United States Census
Since 1790 there has been a census taken every ten years in the United States. The early censuses didn’t give very much family information just the head of family. Beginning in 1850 all the members of the family are listed by name and relationship to the head of the family. The most current census that is available for genealogists at the moment is 1930.The 1940 census will not however be available until 2012
Census records are a secondary source because unfortunately there is no way to know who gave the information to the census taker, (before 1940) it could have been the head of the household or it could have been a neighbor. They are however an invaluable resource to genealogist since they give such information as country of origin, education, age, whether or not naturalized and number of years in the United States. Not all censuses include all this information.
To find out what information is included on each census and print out blank forms go to this website.
Gone are the days when you have to wade through the census information page by page. You can now use the search engine on Ancestry.com to search the data through a variety of search options. Even if you don’t know where your ancestor was living you will have the option to find them through this search. Ancestry.com is not a free website if you want to use it at home. It is a subscription site. Many public libraries, private genealogy libraries and college libraries have subscriptions to ancestry that you can access for free.
With the information in this article you will be able to begin your genealogy research. There are hundreds of other sources and ways to search. When you have exhausted everything in this article it will be time to move on to Intermediate Genealogy.