Getting Started in Genealogy

Genealogy is now the second most popular hobby in the United States, right after gardening!
 
If you are already a genealogist, you have lots of good company. If you want to get started in genealogy, but don't know where to begin, here are some tips for getting started.
 
 
  • Start by asking family members for information on your family. Someone may have already compiled a portion or even a significant amount of your family. There may be a family bible with births, marriages & deaths. Older family members may recall information that you can compile.
     
  • Prepare a chart showing your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc., reaching back as far as you can find information. Begin collecting the following information as a minimum: full name, date and place of birth, marriage and death. Add to your collection of information as you learn more. Here is an easy-to-use, free genealogy software that provides a way for you to collect and compile your information.
     
  • Find other researchers who share your ancestry. The first place to start your search is within your own extended family, including great-aunts/uncles and second, third or fourth cousins. They may be already researching your family or know a distant relative who has more information. Eventually, you’ll want to seek out any Family Historical Societies.
     
  • Start looking on the Internet. There are several Internet sites that sponsor Surname Forums and Discussion Boards. Two good ones are at RootsWeb and GenForum. Once you find your Surname site, use the search tool to look for your earliest ancestors. And, post a message identifying your early ancestor's), including date and place of birth, spouse, where they lived and any other distinctive information. Make the Subject line as specific as you can. You also should check to see if there are alternate spellings of your surname that also have a site.
     
  • Discuss your findings. Many people compile their family information and share copies within their close family, or even publish their information. With the advent of the Internet, more and more researchers are compiling and presenting their family information on their websites. Sometimes, there are extensive discussions about early ancestors of general interest on the Surname sites. Family History and Genealogical Societies are great places to share and discuss information. Often, these can be found with a search through Google. We hope you will also post your pedigree and any questions, answers or information you have on the World Families Network Forum.
     
  • Document the source of every single piece of information that you obtain (and their source, where given). Most experienced researchers will privately admit that they learned this the hard way and had to later sort out their undocumented collection of earliest materials. 
     
  • Post your pedigree, even if you don't have very much information, on the Surname Project's Pedigree Forum (guide to posting) .  An interested researcher may see it there and contact you to share information. 
     
  • Join your surname project, if there is one, so you will be aware of any developments in the project and new connections as they develop.  Ordering through the project automatically makes you a member of the project, and, if price is an issue, order a 12 marker test to begin, and upgrade later as you see fit. 
     
  • If you are a female, find an appropriate male to yDNA test for the surname project.  Both females and males can take the mtDNA test to trace maternal ancestry.  If there is no surname project for your surname of interest, consider starting one.  World Families can help.  See Start a Project 
     
  • Read the Frequently Asked Questions for answers to many of your questions about genealogy and DNA testing.
     
  • Read all the DNA the Smart Way pages to understand how the whole process works.