How to Start Your Family History
Step 1. Write Down What You Already Know about Your Family
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Start with yourself. Use worksheets such as a pedigree chart and family group sheets to write down the information you already know about yourself and your family.
A pedigree chart may be used to show you, your parents, grandparents, and great grandparents.
If you do not know exact dates or places, estimate them.
Step 2. Review What Is Missing
Highlight missing or incomplete information on your worksheets. Decide what information you want to find first. At first limit this list to a few pieces of needed information. If you chase too many rabbits, you'll likely catch none of them.
Step 3. Find Out What Information Already Exists
Gather your records. Start with the records you have in your possession, and gather them into one place. Organize them, and see what family history information you already have.
Talk to your family. Listen to relatives and family friends. Record any useful information or stories they provide. Ask about copies of birth, marriage, and death certificates, journals, letters, photos, and other records that might be available. If you can, have a way to copy their documents as most are reluctant to let loose of important papers. A scanner or digital camera may work well for this.
Search other sources. If you have a computer, it is often helpful to visit family history Web sites. For example, the FamilySearch™ Web site at www.familysearch.org provides access to billions of names, dates, and other worthwhile information. FamilySearch can also connect you to other useful family history Web sites and resources. These Web sites often provide valuable family history information.
Visit a Family History Center near you to receive help on how to use FamilySearch, evaluate the information you find on the Internet, and get free research assistance. Staff members will gladly help you with your research questions. For the location of a center near you, go to www.familysearch.org or call 1-866-406-1830 in the (United States and Canada).
After you have organized your information make copies of family charts, photographs, and stories. Share them with family members. This will ensure that your family information is preserved and may interest other family members in their family history. Using what you have gathered, decide what you would like to learn next. Decide which ancestors you would like to know more about and where you might find additional information about them. You could also leave a written history of yourself for family members and posterity.