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Genealogy: Home

Your Very First Steps

Welcome to the world of researching a family's history! Whether you're just starting your research journey or are a pro looking to bridge a tricky knowledge gap, the staff at Flower Library are here to help. This guide will provide you with resources, connections, contacts, and tips and tricks to guide you along the way.

For those who are just getting started with genealogy research, your first task is to determine what your goal is with your family research - what are you hoping to figure out? What are you hoping to do with the information? What connections are you hoping to form? By answering these questions you'll have a better understanding of what types of documents you're searching for and what general direction your research should go.

Next, you should write down what you know. This works best when you start with yourself and work backward. Some important things to consider when working on this step are:

  • Writing down everything you can remember about your family
  • Obtaining full names: middle names and maiden names are important as well
  • Thinking of dates and places of important events (births, deaths, and marriages are a great place to start)
  • Remembering to include as many occupations and other impactful stories about your family as possible; these help develop your family's story

At this point it's a good idea to start thinking about an organization system that works for you. Everyone has a different way of organizing their information, but it's important to find one that makes logical sense to you because you may find that you quickly get overwhelmed with the amount of documentation you find! Ancestry.com provides a few different options that help you get started - visit the links on the right side of this page to learn more.

Next, you should take a look at what physical documents you have. You can gather quite a bit of information from these documents alone. These document include:

  • Copies of your own family's birth, marriage, and death certificates - these will list exact dates and places for these events, as well as witnesses and parents
  • Copies of family obituaries
  • Family bibles
  • Wedding announcements
  • Newspaper articles
  • Graduation announcements and copies of diplomas
  • Passports
  • Photographs

Take a break to get organized and add any pertinent information to your family charts.

What does your family have?

After you take inventory of what yourself and your immediate family members have for information and documents, your next step is to consider your extended family members. Make a list of who might have access to information that you are looking for and contact them with specific questions. Be sure to add this information, along with your source, to your charts. Don't forget to include family stories! Be sure to:

  • Scan copies of family pictures
  • Look for old family letters and make copies
  • Take a peek at any family bibles
  • See if there are any old legal papers
  • Look for any other family history information

What gaps exist in your information?

Next up is to identify what information is missing from your family history. Look at your immediate family tree:

  • do you see any gaps?
  • do you need any birth, marriage, or death dates and locations?

Keep in mind that you will need to back up any stories with exact dates, or primary sources, if you are researching your family for enrollment purposes. Primary sources are first-hand accounts of an event, or sources that have not been modified by interpretation. These sources are the most reliable. Headstones, obituaries, newspaper articles, and the like, are secondary sources. While there is room for human error in these sources, they do serve as a great starting point for further research.

Once you've identified any immediate gaps in your research, you're now ready to start diving into the resources that are available to you, from both Flower Library as well as other external sources.

Getting Started

Organization - Charts

Access Ancestry.com for a variety of options when looking for charts to help you keep your genealogical research organized. Please be aware that you may need to access this link using a valid subscription. This link is available inside any NCLS library.

Ancestral, pedigree charts, and family group sheets are also available for free, without a subscription, through other locations on the web:

Also, some researchers have found success with using a different binder or folder for each different generation or family!

Regardless of what system you decide to use, it's always important to document where you found your information because oftentimes information moves on the internet and websites can be changed or deleted! Documenting your sources will help you keep track what you found and will save you time in the long run.

Ashley's Top 10 Tips and Tricks