Beginning Your Genealogical Research
Talk to your relatives. Begin your family history research by findingout as much information as you can from living family members:
Borrow books from your public library on genealogical research. These will tell you what records are available, where they can be found, and describe the researchprocess. This is an extremely important step in your research! Theseare a few of the many "how to" books which have been published:
Names of ancestors, their spouses, and their siblings
Dates of birth, marriage, death, and divorce
The places (town, county, state or province, and country) where these events occurred
Crandall, Ralph J.
Shaking Your FamilyTree
. Dublin, NH: Yankee Publishing, 1986.
Croom, Emily A.
Unpuzzling Your Past: A Basic Guide toGenealogy
. Cincinnati, OH: Betterway Books, 1995.
Greenwood, Val D.
The Researcher's Guide to AmericanGenealogy
. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1990.
Jacobus, Donald Lines.
Genealogy as a Pastime andProfession
. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1968. Reprint,1991.
Mills, Elizabeth Shown.
Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the FamilyHistorian
. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1997.
Pitfalls in Genealogical Research
. Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry, 1987.
How to Climb Your FamilyTree
. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1977. Reprint, 1993.
Szucs, Loretto D., and Sandra H. Luebking.
The Source: A Guidebook ofAmerican Genealogy
. Revised edition. Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry,1997.
Join genealogical societies: The
National Genealogical Society, the stategenealogical society in the state where you live and the state(s) where your ancestors lived, andthe county genealogical society in the county where you live and the counties where yourancestors lived. Membership usually costs relatively little ($5-$50) but you get a lot in return. Most societies publish newsletters and other publications that will provide you with informationabout genealogical research in the area, often including transcripts of actual records. You canfind the names and addresses of genealogical societies in Elizabeth Petty Bentley,
The Genealogist's Address Book
(Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1995). This book can be found in many public libraries.
Solving Difficult Research Problems
Eventually, every genealogical researcher will "hit a brick wall" or have a knotty problem tosolve. You can learn much by reading how other people have solved such problems. Thearticles listed below show you how others solved their research problems.
National Genealogical SocietyQuarterly
, Vol. 83, No. 1 (March 1995), see:The
New EnglandHistorical and Genealogical Register
, and the
can be found in libraries with a large genealogical collection, or youmay be able to purchase back issues from the societies that published them.
Thomas W. Jones, "The Children of Calvin Snell: Primary versus SecondaryEvidence."From the
New England Historical and GenealogicalRegister
, Vol. 151, Whole No. 603 (July 1997), see:
Joy Reisinger, "Is Mother Genevieve a Greslon or a Fontaine?"
Vernon D. Turner, "Lydia Gaymer, the Wife of Humphrey Turner of Scituate."
Steven E. Sullivan, "Joanna (Adams) Lunt Identified."
New York Genealogical and BiographicalRecord
, Vol. 128, No. 2 (April 1997), see:
Harry Macy Jr., "The Van Wicklen/Van Wickle Family: Including its FrisianOrigin and Connections to Minnerly and Kranckheyt."
Cynthia B. Biasca, "Jacques Hertel and the Indian Princesses."
Frederick C. Hart Jr., "A Proposed Family for Thomas Jones of Fairfield, Connecticut, andHuntington, Long Island."
Records Available from NARA
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has many records that are useful forgenealogical research, such as the
Federal populationcensuses, 1790-1920; military service and pension records, ca. 1776-1900; immigration records, 1820-1957; and
Begin with Census Records
You may wish to begin your research in census records, which are available for 1790-1920. Begin with the 1920 census and work your way backwards. Census records are basic buildingblocks for your genealogical research; they will provide names of family members, ages, state orcountry of birth, occupation, and other useful information.
A Final Word
Do not expect "Star Trek" capabilities in the 1990s. You will not really be able to "do" yourgenealogical research on the World Wide Web. Remember, old records are handwritten onpaper, and now exist either on paper or on microfilm. It is extremely costly to convert oldrecords to an electronic format.
Copied with permission from the National Archives