How to Start Your Family History
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.
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 www.familysearch.org 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 www.familysearch.org or call 1-866-406-1830 in the (United States and Canada).
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.
Step 5. What should I do next
For questions within the following range of years
- Present to 1901
- 1837 through 1901
In 1841 and every 10 years following a recorded census was taken. The 1841 through 1901 Censuses are index and available online to be searched. This can help you establish an area that your ancestors lived in. Other vital information can be gleaned from the census: people living in the house and their relationships, approximate year of birth and place of birth.
July 1st 1837 civil registration began. All birth marriages and deaths were to be registered at the local registrars
office. There are online indexes to help locate your ancestors birth, marriage or death. In order to obtain the full event information it is necessary to purchase the certificate. Use censuses and church records to help narrow your search down.
Once you identify the area your ancestor lived in, search parish records.
- Before 1837