Begin your genealogy questEdit This Page
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Step One: What do you know?
- Start by recording what you know about your family tree on a Pedigree Chart. For a Pedigree chart you can fill out on-line and print, click here. If you would prefer to fill it in by hand, you can print a blank form.
- Begin by filling in the form with the facts that you already know about your ancestors.
- It will be interesting to see just how much you know and if any of the family legends you have heard have any basis in fact as you begin to verify the names. dates and places.
- Putting your material into a computer program is also possible. Click here for a list of free and commercial genealogy software programs.
- You can put your genealogy into a pedigree format at: FamilySearch.org. There is never a fee at this site. Just click on the "FamilyTree" icon on the menu line. It will be necessary to create an account and sign in
- FamilySearch.org also has literally billions of records and names to search to help you fill in the blanks. You can also put your family photographs and histories on this site dedicated to the preserving of all of humanity's genealogy.
- Use full names when recording names. Put "nick" names in parentheses.
- Record only the maiden names for all females. You will not be able to trace your grand mother's ancestry with her married name.
- If you know only her first name, you might record, for example: Mrs. Jane Smith.
- If do not know her name, simply record: Mrs John Smith.
- Record the dates as done in Europe: day, month and year.
- To record a location, start from the smallest entity to the largest such as city, county, state, country.
- For a person born in the USA, an example would be:Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA.
- If a person was not born in a city and you know the county, you might record just the county and state: Cook, Illinois, USA.
- If you only know the state, you will record: Illinois, USA.
- In other parts of the world, locations may be: City, Province, Country. For example: Chester, Cheshire, England or Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico.
- Record the location as shown on the earliest record you have of the event. Many times the place where a birth took place is in a different county or province today and in some cases even in a different country! For example, a person may have been born in a town which is in Poland today, but the town may have been part of the Kingdom of Prussia when the event took place. Boundary lines change over time in many parts of the United States and the world.
Step Two: Around the house
- After completing the Pedigree Chart as completely as you are able, there will be some blank spaces.
- The information may be somewhere in your home or in the possession of other family members.
- Boxes or folders can be used to store information that will help you fill the blank spaces such as:
- Certificates - Birth, Marriage, and Death
- Diaries, Journals
- Obituaries, Newspaper articles
- Anything else that might contain family information
Step Three: Family Group Sheet
- For each couple on your Pedigree Chart you need to create a Family Group Record
- Here you record not only the names of your direct ancestors but all their children. These people are your aunts, uncles and cousins.
As you fill out these sheets, please consider these crucial steps:
1. Record our sources of information
With every fact you record on the Pedigree Chart or Family Group Sheet, it is important to record your sources of the information:
- For example, is the birth date of Aunt Betty from personal knowledge or did you get it from a record in a family bible or was it given to you by a family member's personal knowledge?
- You can be sure that in the future you will be grateful that you recorded your sources. While doing genealogy, it is common to meet other distant relatives who will appreciate and sometimes challenge your information.
- Recording sources is an important part of doing your genealogy. Check out Cite Your Sources.
2. Create a "To Do List"
Rather than carry your partially filled out forms around with you when you go look for information, you might create a “To Do List.
- Here you will list in detail the specific pieces of information you are hoping to find. For example: What is the birthday of Aunt Betty? Then you will write down where you might find that information such as: "Ask my cousin George the birth date of his mother or, "Find aunt Betty's burial location and headstone."
- Again, record the specific pieces of information that you need to find and where you plan to search for that information.
- Here is a sample of a To Do List
- An additional benefit when asking a family member to reflect upon their memories of a specific ancestor it almost always seems to bring to mind other facts connected to the event. This may not happen if you ask a general question such as: "tell me all you know about Aunt Betty. It is very important to be very precise in your questions and only ask for one fact at a time in each question!. Ask for such things as when was she born, where was she born, when did she die, where is she buried etc.
3. Research Logs
Because you will probably look through thousands of sources over the years it is important to keep track of what you have researched and your results.
- If you researched the US Census looking for your Great Grand Father John Smith and did not find him, make a note so you won't waste time looking at it again because you can't remember if you have already looked in it. You can download an example here of a Research Logs or
Step Four: Family and Friends
Step Five: How The FamilySearch Wiki Can Help You
See Research Checklist for possible place to search.
Step Six: More FamilySearch Wiki Helps
- Check out these links:
Using the Wiki for Research
Keys to success using the Wiki
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