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Genealogy: Getting Started

Genealogy resources.

Beginner Guides

Steps for Beginners



There are 5 steps in the research cycle for family history.

  1. To start: focus your search on an individual born before 1940. If you need to fill in the gap between now and 1940, talk to family members first! Choose a family member you want to know more about. The three keys to genealogy are: who, when and where. Find out when, where, and for whom key events like birth, marriage, and death occurred.
  2. Choose and locate a source. Census records are a great place to start. Go backwards in time from the most recent records and don't skip generations. Determine which other records may help such as cemetery indexes, obituaries, marriage indexes, etc.
  3. Copy or transcribe documents.
  4. Keep a record of your sources. Organize what you find. Write down when and where you found the information (which library, repository or home source). Write full titles, authors, publication place, dates, and call numbers. You may want to copy the title page and include it with your notes. Use file folders or notebooks to start with and graduate to computer software programs.
  5. Analyze and correlate evidence, and form a new research question. Evaluate what you have and see how it might help you to the next step. Then repeat the process from step 2.

To learn more about genealogy records, visit Key Records. To learn more about the research process, visit Analyzing Records. To learn more about organizing records, visit Forms & Organization.

Want to learn more? Desktop Education Series provides videos to help you in your search.

Family Search Learning Center provides many online, free tutorials to get you started.

RootsWeb Guides to Tracing Family History can help get you started as well as explain the different sorts of records, how to find them, and how they can be useful.