The most valuable piece of advice I will give you is that Your Family Is The Place to Start. If you are reading this post it means that you have decided to start your own family Genealogy quest. A quest that is very rewarding and fulfilling and once started it is very addicting.
I have been doing my own genealogy research since 1998 and it all started with a piece of paper that my grandmother handed to my father which contained the names of her grandparents.
At first, I would only collect names, dates, and stories and believed it was OK. Unfortunately, if your credibility ever comes to question, it is very important to always know where you got that name or that date. This will also help you while doing your research if you ever need to re-verify your information. So the first advise I will give you and probably the most valuable is to always cite your sources.
If you don’t know how to properly cite your sources don’t worry about it, just make sure to jot down names, places, and dates while doing interviews with family members. Also, write the names of books and page numbers and always copy URLs for internet sources. Remember the goal is to always be able to find the information if you ever need to. For more help check this out APA Style or MLA Style.
Hopefully, you will hear my advice and avoid many headaches in the future. OK, now to the fun stuff.
Your Family Is The Place to Start
The first thing is first, you need to create your family tree starting with yourself and if researching your wife’s family, start her tree with her. Download and print this Five Generation Ancestor Chart. Once again start with yourself, then your parents and then your grandparents and so on. Fill in as much information as possible. You will quickly find out that there is a lot missing.
Once you cannot continue any further by yourself it is time to call your relatives. Start with your parents. I recommend you get a notebook to jot notes down especially names, dates, and stories. Remember anything can be a clue to find documents in the future. Once your parents cannot remember any further talk to your grandparents if they are still alive. Don’t forget to write who you interviewed and the date since that is your citation.
Hint – Ask for pictures, or documents and scan them. they will be more inclined to let you scan them than to part with them.
You can use the following Family Group Sheet Form to do family groups. You can use it to write down all the siblings of your grandparents. In case you need it here is also a Relationship Chart to help you decipher relationships while doing research.
Once you think that you have obtained as much possible from your family, don’t forget your eldest living relatives, they are a wealth of information. Good luck and have fun.