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Tips for Beginners


Do you know who your ancestors are?


1.   Start With What You Know


Start working with what you know - the full names and dates of birth of your immediate family members. Search for copies of birth, baptismal, marriage or death certificates that you might have. These records will help you to trace your family's history back further. For example, if you have the death certificate of one of your parents, it may give you the maiden name of his or her mother too. Don't worry if you don't have copies of these records - perhaps a relative has a copy and if not you can order them.




2.   Ask the Family


You may be surprised to learn that one of your relatives may have already done some genealogical research before - this could save you a lot of time and money, especially if they have already obtained the official documents to verify the information.


You should exhaust your own family's "knowledge base" of relatives. In ten years the archives will still be here, but Aunt Bessie might not be.


You may find out useful information by asking elderly relatives about what they remember. It is helpful to make a list of questions before you start to help you focus on what information you are trying to find out. At this point, you may also wish to record oral histories with either a camcorder or cassette player.


Search for old family pictures. letters, or even a family bible that has been past down from generation to generation which can give you many clues to the past. Ask your relatives if you can poke around in the basement you never know what you may find.




3.   Keeping Organized


You should formally record the information that you have found. You will need a place to store your documents, pictures and letters. Remember to document your sources. It is also fun and useful to start charting a family tree and using a software program to help you. Although this information can be recorded using notebooks and index cards, computers can really, really help you not only organize the information but also to print out the information in many different reports and fancy charts. We have used and recommend the following software programs:



Family Tree Maker 2008 (our personal favorite)


Personal Ancestral File (PAF) Free to download


4.   Locating Official Documents


There are some records available on the Internet but in the end you will need to visit a record office, family history center, or library where you can search records on microfilm and microfiche. The dates civil registration of births, marriages and deaths were recorded by the government vary greatly depending on location. For early records, you will need to look at church parish records. Newspapers are also a good source for early information.


Remember to always check various spellings of your ancestors' names. It is likely that you will find variations in the spelling of surnames in earlier records. Also, due to illiteracy some of your ancestors were unable to tell the record keeper how their names should be spelled.


5.   The Internet


Since you are on this web site you are surely already using the Internet to help you in your search of your family history. The world wide web is a huge place and it can be hard knowing where to start. You could search the thousands of genealogy webpages on the internet for your ancestors. However, experience genealogists have expressed doubts about the accuracy of family trees constructed using internet sources alone.


We recommend starting with a wonderfully helpful site called FamilySearch. This is a Mormon/LDS (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) site. This web site allows you to search various resources including the International Genealogical Index, a partial index to vital records from around the world, and find a Family History Centre near to you. I also recommend visiting the National Archives Records Administration web site.


Subscribe to a mailing list or two. You can correspond with researchers all over the world. Remember, you are not alone. There are many people who are interested in researching their family history. And, by searching the internet you may find someone who is researching the same ancestors. You can also find fellow researchers by joining your local Genealogical or Historical Society. Find out the address and opening times of your local FHC ( Family History Center ) and pay them a visit.


Use the search engines to search for information. You probably already have a favorite search engine you like to use. We would suggest also trying: Google and Yahoo.


Find out about the places or countries in which your ancestors lived. Search for maps online.


6.   Genealogy Books


How about getting a book about the history of your ancestor's homeland? And, there are many how-to books for the beginning family historian.


Borrow books from your library or buy online.


7.  Genealogy Research Problems

Eventually, every family historian will "hit a brick wall" or have a difficult problem to solve. Perhaps you realized just how time-consuming genealogy research is and that you just don't have the time to do all the research yourself. Don't worry, you can hire our researcher.


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