View Full Version : Where Should I Begin?

05-17-2007, 07:52 PM
I would like to research my family history, but I don't where to start. What's the first step?

05-17-2007, 09:25 PM
Peace Sis,

I had to research my family history for a class so I can give a little help on how to start. The first place to begin are your parents, and grand parents on both sides of the family. If you can gather information for example names and places of birth and death that would be a wonderful start. Also ask your grandparents or parents for information on your great grand parents. Another good resource is touching bases with the eldest member of your immediate family for a personal interview. Also I would search Google for websites and books for a strategy. I hope that this helps you begin your search!!


05-18-2007, 09:42 AM
I have researched my family off and on for the last 10 years. The first thing I would suggest is to purchase a binder just for this project and divders to help you divide the many branches of the tree you will come across. Next, write down what you know and then go to parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and any other family members you can find. Another reosurce is the Mormon church. It sounds crazy, however,each member must trace their family tree before they die, so at most church's they may have a Family Research center, where they have books, microfische, tapes, you name it. Also, log on to the Social Security Death Index, it will give you information as to when th person died and you will find their name, address, place of birth, county of birth, place of death, date, and county of death. In some situations you can actually purchase the Social Security card application which would have the mother's name, father's name and other pertinent information. This is just a start. If I can think of anything else I will be sure to place it here. MizzLizz

05-18-2007, 02:20 PM
Any person of African descent interested in locating ancestors should get the book Black Roots. It has great information, wonderful resources, and ideas that will really help.

ETA: Another often overlooked, but very important resource is the old family Bible. Usually births, deaths, anniversaries, etc are written in them. Try to contact the oldest living member of the family, their Bibles will probably have the oldest info. I also agree with the other suggestions listed above.

05-18-2007, 03:47 PM
I agree with the Mormon Church and organizing yourself to keep track of family records, notes, and any other findings.


05-18-2007, 07:14 PM
Does the Mormon Church only have family history for it's members? What if none of my family members are associated with the church?

05-20-2007, 07:24 PM
They have information for most states, counties, and townships. Remember we were everywhere. The Mormon church keeps track of complete census records, and because their records are so complete we are in there as well. We are in their property listing, wills, so it makes it a great resource.

Does the Mormon Church only have family history for it's members? What if none of my family members are associated with the church?

05-25-2007, 04:52 PM
I agree with some of the previous posts.

- Determine what system you will used to stay organized. You can accumulate an amazing amount of paper and records when researching your family history.

- Next, gather all the information you can from your parents, grandparents and other living relatives, especially your elders. Write down everything. The most innocuous information can help you have a breakthrough when you hit a brick wall down the line.

- This is the point where I started an online search. I paid for a subscription to Ancestry, but I know there are some free sites as well. Don't just note your direct line, but be sure to capture brothers and sisters of your greats and great-greats. It will help. Trust me.

- You'll want to fill in as much information as you can up to 1870 (The first year that blacks were included in the census), after that it will get trickier. You can order birth, marriage and death certificates (and other records) to fill in information. One of my great-grandmothers died at 30 following childbirth. No one had much info about her family. I was able to learn her parents names and where they were from by ordering her death certificate.

- Message boards at RootsWeb, Genealogy.com, Ancestry and Afrigeneas.com can be really helpful. Many have boards related to specific surnames and states. I've identified and connected with three cousins I didn't know this way!

- One more piece of advice...when reviewing census records, don't just look at, say, your great-grandparents. Look at the people who lived around them. In many cases, especially in the south, families lived next door to each other or nearby. I've been able to solve some family mysteries just by taking a closer look at who was living next door.

Good luck!

05-25-2007, 11:19 PM
Thanks for the great advice.

05-26-2007, 07:42 AM
I haven't started researching my family yet although I would like to one day. But my advice would be to be patient. I worked in the office of vital records one summer and many people come in as they are working on their own family projects. The office is such a resource, but a lot of old records are incomplete and inaccurate. Names are often mispelled, locations may have changed, information might be missing from the records and searches may not be as simple as you think they should be. And keep in mind that even if a search does not produce a record, you will probably have to pay for it just the same. (At least you do in Virginia.) So just don't kirk out--think creatively (how many antiquated ways can you think of to spell "Benjamin?") and keep trying.

Good luck! :)

07-24-2007, 07:36 PM
I was doing this once but didn't get past great greats. I wish I had people for this becuase it seems so overwhelming. I should get my sisters together and start again. Thank yall so much for this advice.

08-04-2007, 06:32 AM
Trying to trace my lineage to determine what part of africa my family came from. Any suggestions?

08-05-2007, 04:51 PM
Yesterday, I was walking through Half Price Bookstore and "Family Tree for Dummies" jumped out at me. I immediately picked up the yellow box (for $3.98). It contains a CD Rom and a small guide on finding your ancestors. I haven't gone through everything yet, but I think it will be helpful.