There have been times when I’ve talked to people about my Family Tree and Genealogy, most of them are pretty interested and want to learn more about their family. But, then they ask me how long I have been looking, and I tell them, at least 25 years, that is when they start talking about how hard it must be. It’s not, really, at least not at first. Getting started is very easy, there are a multitude of websites out there to help you research and organize (and some of them are free!). There are computer programs that will keep everything sorted for you as well.
Getting started is the easy part, stopping is what I have a hard time with.
There are just a few things that you need to start:
- A notebook and pen
- The names of your parents and grand parents
- Their birth dates and, if applicable, death dates (a general idea of the dates is sufficient)
- A computer and access to the internet will soon come in handy
When you have the notebook and pen, write down everything you know about your immediate family. When you have everything down that you know, talk to your family members; older family members will have the best stories. They are a wealth of information and most love to tell family stories. Write everything down. I literally have bookshelves and file cabinets filled with notebooks and binders of notes. Some kind of organization will become necessary.
Once you put together the names and dates of your immediate family, it is necessary to decide how you want to keep the records. I use a mixture of binders / notebooks, external storage drives, computer programs and webpages.
In the binders I have anything that I have printed, like census, birth, death, family group sheets (shown below) or marriage records; emails and pictures & in notebooks I have all my written notes.
On my external storage drives I have saved documents organized by birth, death, marriage, census, military and immigration / naturalization.
The computer program I use is Family Tree Maker exclusively. The webpages hold all of the above and probably more. There are a multitude of websites to choose from, but the ones I use most are Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. Both will connect and update to Family Tree Maker; and both will indicate what family members have hints. These sites have free memberships, to a point.
This is really all you need to get started. You can search census records and find some birth and death records online. The hints from Ancestry and Family Search are very helpful, although it’s a very good idea to verify information before attaching it to your tree. I once researched a whole new branch of my husband’s tree for a month or two, only to find out that the only real connection was that an ancestor looked just like my husband.