How to Begin a Search for Your Ancestor
To begin searching for your ancestors, follow the steps below:
- Write down what you already know about your family. Talk to relatives and family friends. Look for documents and artifacts in your home, such as letters and certificates, to learn the dates and places where your family lived and events that happened within their lives.
- Decide what information is missing and what you want to learn about your ancestors. For example, do you want to know the date of your grandfather’s death or the names of his parents?
- Find out what research has already been done. Check with living relatives to see if someone in the family has already done research on the family line. You can also check Internet family history sites and published books.
- Search vital records such as birth, marriage and death records to find information about the births, marriages and deaths of family members. Church and census records might also have additional information about your family.
- As you evaluate the information you found ask yourself, "Did you find what you were looking for? Was the information complete? Are there glaring inconsistencies? Are there clues that might help you find other useful information?"
As you have success in finding new information, preserve what you’ve found by sharing it with others. The easiest way to do this is by using FamilySearch™ and similar family history Internet sites as a place to store what you've gathered. Millions of people search these sites every year. Perhaps others will see what you’ve found and can provide you with additional information.
How Do I Start My Family History is a free, easy to use step-by-step guide on how to begin your search.
For more a more detailed guide on beginning your research, see A Guide to Research.
- How to Guess Where to Start
- Principles of Family History Research
- Family Trees: An Online Research Tool
- Toms, Gary R. Tips and Tactics from 50 Years of Research (35 minute online video) FamilySearch Research Classes Online, 2010.
- Miller, Ellen. Beginning Genealogy (29 minute online video) FamilySearch Research Classes Online, 2010.