Getting Started

WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF GENEALOGY 

Welcome to the growing hobby of genealogy, learning about your family’s history.  Think about why you are interested: do you want to build a family tree, locate DNA relatives, identify your immigrant ancestor, find where they came from, understand why they moved, learn what they did for a living? You might have these and other reasons.    

A lot of information is available. Much of it is online (e.g., Ancestry.com, Familysearch.org, and many other sources).  More of it is not online, including for example pictures, letters, or diaries in your home or with your relatives.  Many documents and records from county courthouses, libraries, or historical societies have not been put on-line.  Click Here (PDF) to see one example of suggested sources.

Genealogy is a lot of detective work, asking and answering questions, based on facts and evidence, about our ancestors and how they are related. As you find information and records, think about how and where you want to make note of it and store it.  Options include paper files, an on-line database like Ancestry or My Heritage, or in a genealogy software program on your computer.  To learn more about whether and how to consider using a genealogy software program, Click Here.

Take small steps; pick one ancestor and think about what specifically you want to learn.  Work from the known to the unknown; that is, start with what you know and work backwards in time, one step at a time.  To learn about some basic next steps Click Here.

Here are some lessons learned from other beginning genealogists 

  • Many people have similar names, and live in the same locality at the same time, so be cautious about adding the wrong person to your family tree.
  • Study the information you find. See if facts fit together logically and make sense (e.g., is a child’s birthdate before its parent’s birthdate?) 

Have fun exploring!