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Guide to Family History Research

Guide to Family History Research is for you! If youíre here, youíre probably looking for information about getting started in a wonderful, rewarding hobby.

This guide contains the following chapters:

Click at the top of each page where it says "Guide to Family History Research" to return here and go to the next chapter, or use the navigation system at the bottom of each page to move from chapter to chapter.

Getting Started

Itís not rocket scienceóstart with what you know and work backward, one generation at a time.

Use your memory, information from family members, and whatever documents you can lay hands on to start the ball rolling.

Begin organizing your materials from the start so you wonít wind up thinking youíre your own grandpa.

Write down how you know what you know as you collect data. Just trust me on that one. Or donít do it and youíll find yourself re-doing your research when you canít resolve conflicting information.

Read through the chapters in this book (well, on this website) and dive right in. Look through the kinds of records mentioned and soak up the concepts about how to approach this project.

Youíll run into records you donít understand. When that happens, youíre ready for a new learning experienceóyouíll get used to it after a while.

Keep in mind that every single one of your ancestors had two parents, one male, one female. Yes, youíll begin to wonder if there are outer-space aliens in your lineage (there probably are) when you simply cannot move backward on some family line or another. Donít give up; switch your focus to another branch of your family tree and hone your research skills, then come back to the problem line later on.

This guide focuses on American genealogy. When you trace your folks back to a foreign country, the records will be different but the process is the same.

Your folks didnít exist in a vacuumókeep them with the people they were kin to and associated with. Youíll find they were part of networks of social acquaintances, religious brethren, business contacts, military comrades-in-arms, extended family, in-laws, neighbors, and, of course, family members. Use those people to help you find your folks.

Keep your family in historical context. Not only did the people around them impact their lives, so did political events and social trends. Read history.

Good luck on your research!

[Get Started] [Is Family History For You?] [Home and Family Sources] [Organizing Your Family Records] [Beginning Your Research] [Federal Census Records] [Courthouse Research] [Military Records] [Ethnic Genealogy] [A Broad View] [Correspondence] [Sharing Your Heritage] [A Genealogist's Toy Box] [Glossary]

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