How to Start Your Family History

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'Step 1. Write Down What You Already Know about Your Family'

Start with yourself. Use a worksheet such as a pedigree chart or family group sheet to write down the information you already know about yourself and your family.

A pedigree chart may be used to show you, your parents, grandparents, and great grandparents.

A family group sheet page 1 and page 2 may be used to show more complete information about a husband and wife with their children.

If you do not know exact dates and places, estimate them.

'Step 2. Review What Is Missing'

Circle any missing or incomplete information on your worksheet. Decide what information you want to find first

'Step 3. Find Out What Information Already Exists'

Gather your records. Start with the records you have in your possession, and gather them into one place. Organize them, and see what family history information you already have.

Talk to your family. Talk to relatives or family friends. Record any useful information or stories they provide. Ask about copies of birth, marriage, and death certificates, journals, letters, photos, and other records that might be available.

Search other sources. If you have a computer, it is often helpful to visit family history Web sites on the Internet. For example, the FamilySearch™ Web site at provides access to millions of names, dates, and other worthwhile information. FamilySearch can also connect you to other useful family history Web sites and resources. These Web sites often provide valuable family history information.

Visit a family history center near you to receive help on how to use FamilySearch, evaluate the information you find on the Internet, and get free research assistance. Staff members will gladly help you with your research questions. For the location of a center near you, go to or call 1-800-406-1830 in the (United States and Canada).

'Step 4. Share What You Have and Decide What You Want to Learn Next'

After you have organized your information make copies of family charts, photographs, and stories, and share them with family members. This will ensure that your family information is preserved and may help to interest other family members in their family history. Using what you have gathered, decide what you would like to learn next. Decide which ancestors you would like to know more about and where you might find additional information about them. You could also leave a written history of yourself for family members and posterity.