Family History
and genealogy site

J. Gregory  

  So those who went before us are not Forgotten

Family History Family History Family History

Researching Your Family Tree

If you are a beginner, start with yourself, then work outwards from what you do know to what you don't. Begin with finding the information to fill out a four generation pedigree chart; from you to all your great grandparents.

Start your search at home, with a copy of your own birth certificate. Look it over. It should give the date and place of your birth and name your parents; possibly the names of grandparents. Your parents should have copies of their birth certificates and their marriage license or certificate (the license says that they may marry and the certificate says that they did). Plan to acquire, eventually, copies of birth, death, and marriage records for your ancestors as far back as these records exist, which depends on where they lived. Birth, marriage, and death certificates are usually available in the Vital Records department of the county courthouse where the event took place, possibly a central state office as well. If you are not familiar with death certificates, they are useful because they name the parents of the deceased and any surviving spouse; a certificate for a great grandparent who died about 1910 should give you information about the great great grandparents who might have been born about 1820.

Birth certificates: These most always show parents and sometimes other valuable information including where the parents were both born, their occupations, etc.

Marriage licenses and certificates: These show ages, parents, witnesses and other various pieces information including in some cases where the bride, groom, and parents were born and their occupations, etc.

Death certificates: Of course these show death dates, birth dates, parents, who reported the death, where the deceased person was residing and much more info including causes of death, etc.

To record your findings, you will use two kinds of charts: Pedigree charts and family group sheets. The easiest way today is to buy a computer genealogy program and let it create these charts, which it will do superbly.

Next, with partially filled out family group forms in hand, talk to your older relatives. Usually someone in the family is interested in family history. Most older people are happy to help when younger relatives show interest in the family. If your parents or grandparents aren't living, great aunts and older cousins often can help you fill in some of the blanks on your charts. If family letters or a scrapbook exist, they are a way to become acquainted with your long dead relatives -- you can ask to copy these.
Ask family members if they have available baby and wedding books, divorce papers, funeral cards, awards, diplomas, school yearbooks, employment records, military records, medical records. It also could be that your family kept journals or diaries. Check the attic.

*Next, this is VERY important, document where ALL of your verbal information comes from and keep copies of all written information, whether on paper or emails. This will prove invaluable later when you come across conflicting information.

Go to your local newspaper and get copies of obituary notices. Obituary notices are a wealth of knowledge. Look at an obituary in today's newspaper and you will see all the information that can be obtained from one. In the older obituaries, longer write-ups are given on family members when they died telling about not only the person but about their life and in some cases about when their family line settled in a certain area of the country. Or you can search the obituary collection at

Get church records on your family. Baptismal, Christening, Marriage, Membership, etc. These will show as much, in some cases, as vital records.

Go to the cemeteries that you know your ancestors are buried in and look for other family members. Write down all information off of tombstones even those that may not necessarily apply to your current direct family members. You might not visit this cemetery for awhile and you will have the necessary information right in front of you for future reference.

Get Census records. Begin with the latest census available and work backwards. Census records have been taken since 1790. Before 1790 you can use Tax Lists and other local lists that might have been compiled according to the state you are researching in. This will help you fill in the missing pieces and find family members. Some libraries and historical societies such at the Church of Latter Day Saints, have census records on microfilm at their branches. Of course, today with the advent of the Internet and CDs, it is convenient for us to do our research in the privacy of our own home! Check Census Records for the US from 1790 to 1930 at Census records before 1850 have very little information but the later census listings can be very helpful.

Family Tree

Research Links - Family History and Genealogy Records
A project of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. is the largest family history site online with over 4 billion names in worldwide
historical records, family tree services and genealogy learning materials. Census and some other areas require subscription.

Social Security Death Indexes
Contains the records of deceased persons who possessed Social Security numbers and whose death had been
reported to the SSA.

Genealogy Bank

Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet.
Comprehensive genealogy resources, including surname searches, introduction to researching, message boards.
Some areas require subscription.

Defining Cousins

Analyzing Given Names

Search Engine Tips for Genealogy

Google is not always a good search engine for genealogy unless you're looking for information on places or well known subjects.
Google now relies heavily on "Page Rank" for its search results, which is a rating of how many other sites link to a page.
A page with 10 or more other sites linked to it would come up high on your search results but a page that has no other pages linked to it may not come up at all, as google will completely ignore it. This page might have your ancestor or individual you are searching on it.
If you're looking for individual names, or places that no longer exist, try Yahoo or Bing for your genealogy searching, as they index content first, not who else is linking to it.
Never rely on only one search engine though for your research.