Getting Started

Beginning a genealogical project means starting at the end rather than the beginning. In other words, start with yourself and work backward. This will assure that you are indeed working with your ancestors, and not some people with the same or similar surname. BEWARE that family names are spelled in differing ways from generation to generation. Very often spelling was decided by the record keeper, not the family. Always check every possible variation in spelling when searching records.

Record everything you know about your parents, including:

  • birth date
  • birth place
  • marriage(s), dates and places
  • death date and place
  • burial date and place
  • immigration and naturalization
  • education
  • careers, awards, etc.
  • military service
  • land owned
  • names of their parents, and parents’ other children
  • names and data on all their own children

Then look for the same information on the next generation, and on back. It is very helpful to record your information on standard genealogical forms, such as Pedigree Charts, Family Group Sheets, and so forth. Be sure to VERIFY all information. Even though you may find a fact in print, or on a CD-ROM or the internet, it may not be factual. If you record the details of your source and the date found, you can later evaluate the accuracy if there are conflicts.

Input from older family members is an invaluable resource when beginning. Most of us wait too long before we start asking questions about our roots. When possible use a recorder. Remember, however, that memories fail, and some stories become modified over time. Let all your family know you are interested in the family history, and ask for their help.