This page provides guidance for conducting proper genealogical research. A genealogist should know what kinds of records exist, how to interpret them, how to correlate them, and what to do when you can't find them. A genealogist should also understand the research process and different research models.
Start by learning about the Genealogical Proof Standard and the FAN Principle. To prove a lineage, a genealogist must understand how to use evidence from various records to make a sound case. When records don't provide direct evidence, a genealogist must use indirect evidence from a multitude of sources to provide an answer to the research question. The Genealogical Proof Standard is a 5 element process illustrating this concept. FAN research is a method in which a genealogist researches the target ancestor's family, associates, and neighbors to find evidence.
The biggest pitfall for a novice genealogist is giving up when easy evidence cannot be found. If researching an ancestor, with the goal of finding his or her parents, does not yield any answers, you must expand your focus to the FAN club: the family, associates, and neighbors. A researcher must branch out to the spouses, children, neighbors, and various associates who appear in the records of the target ancestor. Then, the researcher must research and compile records on those people. FAN research establishes the broader family relationships and community of the target ancestor and gives the researcher more opportunities to trace the family unit further in time and place.