How to Begin Researching Your Family History
Karen Utter Jennings
Are you interested in finding out more about yourself and your ancestors? Do you wonder about the medical history of your family members? Do you have old family photographs that you can’t identify? Why not start your genealogy journey?
As with all journeys, there is much to discover and learn. The rewards are never ending. During my journey, I have found photographs and many other interesting documents and family stories of the main family lines that I am researching. These newfound items of days gone by and bits and pieces of information were added to what I already knew about them.
So, how do you begin your genealogy journey? How do you find relatives, amazing facts, pictures, records, and mementos? Begin by focusing on only one surname. This is important so you do not get overwhelmed. You may stop at any time with that surname and begin to research another one, but until you get a bit of experience, it may overwhelm you if you try to search for multiple lines at the same time.
Here are the first steps to begin researching your family history:
1. Decide on one surname to focus your research.
2. Gather pencil/pen and paper or if you prefer to type, go to the keyboard.
3. Start with yourself and record your information: when and where you were born and your parent’s names. Next, if you are married, write your marriage information and your spouse’s information. Be as complete as you can. If you have children, continue writing each of your children’s information. If the children are married with children, write that information down as well and continue until you finish each person in your line. When you finish, set this information aside.
4. Next, begin to record the information about your parents, but remember to focus on the surname you chose. Record everything you know about them. When you finish, set this information aside.
5. Continue to record the information about your parents’ parents, and so on. Do this until you cannot go any further because you do not have information on that set of grandparents.
6. After you have worked to produce information, you need to organize it. Place your work in a folder or if you worked on the keyboard save your work on the computer.
Genealogists use family group sheets to organize their information. A family group sheet is an 8 ½ by 11 inch paper that is used to record each family unit and the vital statistics. The sheets organize your information as a series of family groups. Family group sheets are user-friendly.
Begin filling out the family group sheet starting at the top. There are spaces to write in who is preparing the sheet, the date, the relationship to preparer, the family unit number and the ancestral chart number. Family group sheets are easy to use and self-explanatory in most cases.
Next, fill in the husband’s vital statistics: the day, month along with the year he was born, the city, county, and state/country where he was born. Included are fields for his occupation, religion, if he was christened, when he was married, died and buried, the cemetery, if he had a will and the cause of his death. Beneath his information is where you fill in his father’s and mother’s names.
Below the husband’s information will be the wife and her vital statistics and fields for her other information. Be sure to include the wife’s maiden name if known. Also, write down the wife’s mother’s maiden name in the appropriate space.
After you have finished the wife’s information, you will start filling in their children’s vitals. There is space for twelve children. If there are more than twelve children, use another family group sheet.
Family Group Sheets, as well as other genealogy records can be accessed at these websites for free: http://www.RootsWeb.com, http://www.familyeducation.com, or http://FamilyTreeMagazine.com.
As you search for your family roots, I hope you enjoy the journey.