Be aware that as long as you are alive, your complete family history is NOT going to appear on the Internet. You have to do some research of the living generations that will take you back to the generations of deceased ancestors in order to "make connections." So start by equiping yourself with some four-generation pedigree/ancestor charts and some family group sheets, and do the necessary preliminary work. ALWAYS start your research with yourself and work back in the generations to your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc. NEVER start with someone way back in time and try to prove descent down from that person.
Remember the numbers 1 2. 3 and 4: For every 1 person on your family tree, there are 2 biological parents, a father and a mother. There are 3 genealogical events that identify each person and they are BIRTH, MARRIAGE and DEATH. There are 4 things that must be known about each event and they are WHAT the event is, WHEN it took place, WHERE it happened and WHO it concerned.
- Start by entering your given name, middle name and family surname after the number 1 in the middle of the pedigree chart. A woman should ALWAYS enter her maiden names, or the name that appears on her birth certificate. Capitalize the surname. [Example] John Jacob JONES or Mary Ann BROWN.
- Next, enter your date of birth by day first, then a three-letter abbreviation for the month, and the full year [Example] 27 Mar 1950.
- Enter your place of birth by city or town, then county (in parentheses) and then state [Example] Chicago (Cook) IL. Since almost all records in the USA are kept at county level, always enter a county.
- Next, enter the date and place of marriage, and enter the spouse's name in the place specified for it. Enter information above your name after # 2 for your father his name, date and place of birth, date and place of death, and date and place of marriage.
- Below your name, after # 3, enter the same information for your mother. Continue entering whatever information you have about your paternal and maternal grandparents (numbers 4,5,6 and 7) and about your paternal and maternal great grandparents (numbers 8,9,10,11,12,13,14 and 15.)
- ALWAYS number your ancestors; in subsequent generations; you may find one or more ancestors with the same name, and it helps to get them in the right generation if they are numbered. Men will always bear an even number, and women, an odd number; a woman's number will always be her husband's number plus 1.
If you aren't sure of your facts, enter them in pencil and put a ? after them. When you have filled out a pedigree chart with all the known information, you will be able to see the data that you are lacking and the areas in which you need to do research. Look first for the missing information in records you might have in your possession, such as birth, marriage and death certificates, wills, obits, diaries, letters, newspaper clippings, etc. Next, talk to close relatives who might be able to fill in the blank spaces, or write to aunts, uncles, cousins and other relatives if they are not close enough to contact in person. Keep your letters short and to the point, and ALWAYS include an SASE [stamped self-addressed envelope] in your request for information. Offer to pay for copy costs of available records.
Once you have accumulated enough data, make out a family group sheet [PDF format] for each couple of your pedigree chart. This FGS should include all known children of each couple, and this is the place to add the extra tidbits you have acquired, such as where the couple met, what his or her hobbies were, their physical appearance, etc. If necessary, write on the back of the form or add another page to it. Don't skimp. While the basic statistics identify a person, it's the added specifics about him that make him unique and human.
Your next step should be to find your ancestors on census records, and these can be acquired either thru your local library or thru a Family History Library of the Mormon Church. Many census records are now available on line. Start with the 1920 census (the latest one available at this time) and by using the Soundex for your surname, find your family, You will have to know the state in which your parents or grandparents resided in 1920. Your reference librarian or a Family History Library volunteer will be able to steer you in the right direction for using census records these are probably one of the best sources for finding ancestry. Go back from 1920 to 1910, then 1900, 1880, 1870 keep going as far back as you can go to 1790. Other published records you might want to check are immigration records, county histories, family surname publications, etc.
If you know where an ancestor got married or died, check the local county clerk's office to secure copies of those records. The office where such records are filed, addresses and phone numbers can be found by checking through The Handy Book for Genealogists, which is usually available at your local library. Entries by state will tell you which records can be had in each county, and a phone call to the county clerk will give you the costs. Other places to look for records are regional archives, historical societies, libraries in the area where an ancestor lived, religious and genealogical society libraries.
Always be sure to document or prove each record on your pedigree chart. An undocumented family history is not worth the paper on which it is written, so be sure to give a source for each date and place. Primary source records, such as a birth or baptismal certificate, marriage return or certificate, death certificate, and Bible record, are considered the best proof. If a primary record can not be found, secondary source records are next?best. Secondary source records are almost any record that has been published in some form and has been derived from a primary source record, such as announcements of birth, death or marriage, tombstones, published genealogies, newspaper or magazine records, etc.
Use the Internet with EXTREME CAUTION. There are many, many errors in information that has been sent in by family history enthusiasts who have not had adequate training in doing genealogical research, and who have not included any documentation or proof of their allegations. Try to prove out each bit of information you glean from the various sources, and if necessary, track back and ask the informant for his or her source or proof of the data. Don't accept anything as the Gospel Truth until you yourself have thoroughly checked it out.