Before coming to the library, you should begin organizing the information you already have. A pedigree or family group sheet is the most common type of form used by genealogists. Ancestry.com has these forms online (available here) and you do not have to be a subscriber to download them. Include any information you may have, such as full names, maiden names, dates, where the individual lived, religious affiliation, professions, military service etc.
Also, check the libraries’ websites before making a visit. Many include a list or description of their resources. Verify their hours and plan your visit to allow sufficient time to access their holdings.
- Begin with yourself – list your name, date of birth, marriage and any other important dates. Then do the same for parents, grandparents etc. if known.
- Determine what information you already have. Look at family Bibles, diaries, letters, school yearbooks, backs of photographs, certificates, etc.
- Talk to older family members and write down or record what they say.
- Not all information is available online. You still need to research the materials at libraries, historical organizations, archives, clerk’s offices, books and periodicals. etc.
- Get organized. Write down or enter the information you find. Label your records and file them so they can be easily found the next time you need them. Keep track of where you have searched or found your information in order to avoid duplicating the same search somewhere down the line.
- Be systematic – work from the known to the unknown. Do not skip generations. It is best to use a pencil when writing down what you find, because there will be a lot of changes, corrections and additions.
- Have a plan of action before you begin your search. Focus on one family or line in order to avoid hopping from family to family and searching ineffectively.
- Genealogy is more than dates. Read histories on the area you are researching. Read newspapers from the time periods you are looking into, to get an idea of what was going on in the society.
Join and support your local and state genealogical societies. Read genealogical journals and further increase your knowledge of the subject by serving on the various genealogical committees.