Thursday, June 14, 2012

Genealogy Tips For Beginners

Are you interested and intrigued by your family ancestry but just don't know where to start? First of all, you will want to start by being organized with your findings. You could start by creating folders for known family surnames that you plan on researching. If it helps, write a small note that has surnames of your family listed. This sometimes helps keep you organized but at the same time you don't want to overlook a surname either.

For me, my interest and infatuation with genealogy came from my father. More than 15 years ago, he sent me a packet and in this packet were two different sets of genealogy research papers with names, birth, death, and marriage dates along with the names of children on down the line. When I first started, never having the proper education as far as the topic of genealogy was concerned or having someone say, "this is how you should start and this is what you need to do to get started", so I did what I had to do, on a limited budget. I taught myself! Granted, I haven't learned everything I need to know. Why? Because every day you learn something new. But how you retain that knowledge and use it is entirely up to you, the student.

I won't tell you that your family research will be easy, because it won't be. You may have some members in your family that you look up and find everything you could possibly hope for, but not all family members will be so easy. You have to dig deeper for these others because they are hiding out. For all we know, they could be there. Just not in plain view sight! They could be in an old cardboard box at a historical library in a room with other boxes. Just keeping each other company while collecting dust. That's a horrible thought when I think about it.

The following tips helped me in my research and I hope they help you too.

1. Interview Family Members ~ Get in touch with and stay in contact with living family members that you can "talk story" with. You may hear a family story or two that you may be able to utilize later. You could voice record the conversation or even set up a video camera for your family interview. You probably don't have to take it to the video extreme but it is an option you may want to consider. Talk to grandparents, aunts and uncles and anyone else you think may be able to offer some insight to your research.

2. Join a Genealogical Society ~ What are the benefits? You can learn new research skills and techniques for starters. You can meet other local researchers and volunteers that may help you along the way too. It is a great way to network with others that share your passion on the topic of genealogy. You can attend monthly meetings and listen to guest speakers and even if you are like me, and have moved away from the area where the majority of your family may have settled, you can still join! (My family is mostly from Kentucky and Virginia, but I live in Hawaii) You may eventually meet some local family historians who are more than eager to share their own experiences and accomplishments. Another benefit to joining is the newsletter, it may be monthly or bi-monthly, but the information that is in them could be very beneficial! So what are you waiting for?

3. Family Albums and Scrapbooks ~ Looking through an old family photo album or scrapbook, you may find just about anything! One day I was looking through some photos my mother has collected over the years, and not only did I find a few old photographs but I also found obituary clippings and funeral cards too. Scrapbooks and photographs can tell a story like you wouldn't believe. Remember it's not just about finding the photos, you could find birth announcements, wedding invitations, birth and death certificates, vintage postcards, old letters,   military records or enlistment papers.  

4. Family Bibles and Journals ~ Look at an old family bible which most likely has writings of birth and death, names and dates, christenings or baptismal records. The possibilities are endless! My grandmother on my mother's side use to have an old cedar chest in a guest bedroom. I wish I had access to the objects that were inside! I remember as a child, I would wear all her fancy old hats, scarves and jewelry that she kept in there. The jewelry wasn't valuable at that time but they would be considered a great heirloom piece one day. She had old clothes in the chest along with a quilt she made, some doilies and some old books. Memories are wonderful things to behold.

5. Local Libraries ~ Visit your local library as you never know what you may be able to find there. Talk to the librarian and explain the research that you are partaking in. She may be able to offer some guidance or recommend certain texts. Unlocking the door to the past may only be a library card away! Here you can get familiarized with the printed work offered and also microfiche. Microfilm and the readers at your library may help spare you some time in researching and reading book after book. 

6. Internet Research ~ The Internet has evolved in so many ways. There are so many web pages dedicated to the topic of genealogy and family history research. You could read other blogs, read and participate in genealogy forums, read articles on the topic, groups on Facebook you can join, news articles. You can even view archived newspapers, look at old photos and anything related to this subject. Access to libraries online, genealogy files, online family trees, personal web pages that list members of their family tree, cemetery records and many others.

Below are a few of my favorite links that I like to utilize, but remember when doing your research, to have everything documented and to cite the source where the information was obtained from. If you do this right from the start, you can go back further in time and research other members of your family. For example, you may have a copy of your parents and grandparents birth or death certificates. This would name their parents, so this is a lead you can work with! Then you can research the parents and their parents and so on down the line. Good luck!


There are many more sites to choose from but this list is just for starters. Good luck in your research and I hope this article has helped you in some way. 

Image Source:

vintage family photo album and documents

Caption:genealogy & family history
Creative image #:108757760
License type:Royalty-free

Andrew Bret Wallis


Brand X Pictures

Credit:Andrew Bret Wallis
Release information:This image has a signed property release. This image is available for commercial use.
Copyright:Andrew Bret Wallis


  1. I'm enjoying reading through your blog! I would also suggest looking in to the online options your local library offers. Mine offers free online access to and Heritage Quest that i can see at home, which has been really helpful!

  2. Thanks Heather! Great idea :) I'll definitely look into that.