Crista Cowan from Ancestry.com did a live stream today on how to start working on your genealogy. To watch that video, go here. But I’ll give you a few tips and some things I’d suggest as well.
1. Start with yourself. Go one generation at a time. And do NOT skip generations.
For this, you obviously know your own information. For your parents and generations prior to them, ask any living relative you can. The main items to note are birth dates, death dates, parent’s names, children’s names, sibling’s names, wedding dates. The more you can get on one person, the better. And the further back you can get, the better.
2. Write it down. Document it.
If you’re a paper and pen kind of person, you can find in several places genealogy charts to use for writing down information. For those who are tech savvy or that know you’re going to want to network or use Ancestry.com, there is a free way to set up a tree on Ancestry.com. There is also software called Family Tree Maker that will also sync to your Ancestry tree if you so choose. Either way, write down whatever information you’re being told or find.
Once you have information, then you can start searching for actual documents to verify. Ancestry has some databases that are free. Specifically, the Federal 1940 Census is free until the end of the year. (That’s also the most recent census record available to the public, so you want to try to get back at least that far with what you already know.)
3. “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
Learn anything you can. Don’t be afraid to Google wars or names or countries for more information or to just see what’s out there. There are also spots on Ancestry’s site specifically for helping you learn and locate more information in your genealogical search. (PLUG FOR MESSAGE BOARDS!! They can be a gold mine!!)
Also, play close attention to ALL of the information provided in a record. Scroll all the way across. Notice all the columns or blanks and what’s filled in and what’s not. Notice the information provided… does it match what you already have? Does it add to what you know? SOO much can be learned from looking at all the details. And don’t be afraid to go back and look again to see what you might have missed.