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Getting Started in Genealogy

Start your family genealogy. If you want to know "How do I find my ancestors?", these steps will help build and record your family tree.


If you would like to learn how to begin your genealogy, find your ancestry, and trace your family tree, it is easy to get started. Here's how:

  1. Record your Family Tree

    Start by recording what you already know about your family tree. Begin with yourself and enter as much information as you know. Preserve your important family information and stories by constructing a family tree generation by generation. Write names, birth dates, marriage and death dates and more if you have it.


    • Start your free family tree online to enter what you already know about yourself, your parents, your grandparents, and as far back as you know. You may know very little about your family, or you may know a lot, but in either case, this is the first step to take.

      You can invite your parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins and other family members to contribute what they know to add to your online tree - fill in names and dates, tell stories and upload photos.

      Ancestry.com will use what you enter to try and find more about your family and add additional generations to your tree from the world's largest online collection of historical records and family trees.




    • OR


    • Build a Family Tree Offline
      Use a genealogy program such as Family Tree Maker to record & preserve your family history. Build a family tree starting with names, dates, and events. You can attach photos, documents, and audio and video files. Not only can you build your family tree, you can construct family charts, and automatically create your personal family history book. Other genealogy programs.




  2. Interview your Family Members

    Talk to your relatives, especially your older relatives, about the family history. You might be amazed what they know but never talked about because they thought no one was interested.

    • Talk to your your relatives using some or all of these
      suggested interview questions. Whether or not you are in frequent communication with your close and extended relatives, you will find that family history is a topic in which many in your family may be interested.

    • As you talk to to your relatives, stay organized by entering all information into your online family tree after each interview. Not only does this keep your genealogy data organized, it keeps it visually accessible and safely stored so that the information you gather is not forgotten or lost.

    • Share what you learn with your relatives. Sharing information you find with relatives not only may jog memories faster than simply asking what they know about the family, but it also keeps the family involved and excited to see what new things you have found about the family.

    • Scan or take digital photographs of family documents and family heirlooms that are held by your family members.




  3. Search Online Completed Family Trees

    You can try to add additional generations to your family tree by searching the existing family trees that are posted online. These could be completed branches of your family tree. Because of privacy, most online family trees will not contain living people. The online trees are a starting place, and the data should be verified.

    • Ancestry Public Member Trees
      Look for your family tree among the hundreds of millions family trees names in the free user-submitted Ancestry Member Trees - the largest collection of pedigree files online. See if someone is already working on your tree.


    • Additional Family Tree Databases
      Search additional family tree and pedigree files databases to find someone working on your family tree. Find distant cousins and help extend your family tree.




  4. Search Online Genealogy Records

    Fill in the blanks in your family tree and keep adding new branches to your tree generation by generation by searching the huge genealogy databases online. These databases have gathered information from around the world and made it easy to view records that used to be only available far from your home.

    • Ancestry.com
      The largest online collection of genealogy records. Trace your family tree using historical census records; immigration records; birth, marriage & death records; military records; historical newspapers; and much, much more.
      Free Access

    • Family Search
      The largest collection of free family history, family tree and genealogy records in the world assembled by the Mormon Church.





  5. Search the Internet for Genealogy Records

    After you have talked to your relatives and recorded that information, the next step is to begin your genealogy search online. Use Google to search the internet for online genealogy records as a lot of family data has been put online in various websites such as GenWeb and personal family history sites.

    • Easy Google Genealogy Searcher
      The Genealogy Google Searcher puts advanced Google features on one page with suggested keywords and advice to show how to use each feature for thorough genealogy internet searching. You can also get more internet search help with Google Search Tips.




  6. Search Genealogy Offline

    Not all family history can be found on the internet. Once you have searched online, you can check out these resources.

    • Family History Centers
      Family History Centers are branch facilities of the Mormon Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Centers provide access to most of the microfilms and microfiche in the Family History Library to help patrons identify their ancestors. Everyone is welcome to come to the centers.

    • Historical Societies
      Societies publish newsletters and have lectures at society meetings to keep members abreast of current news and events. These services improve family history skills and provide a network of people to help break through research barriers.

    • State Archives
      Archives often contain documents relating to the history of the state including military records and pension files, county and local histories, diaries, letters, manuscripts, directories, tax rolls, deeds, land grants, voter registration rolls, photographs and other unusual materials. Sometimes, the state archives will hold birth, marriage, death and probate records.


    • Your Local Library
      Many public library have genealogy departments and local historical records to help your genealogy search. They also may have free online access to large genealogy databases.




  7. Explore the Genealogy Learning Center

    Still have questions how to put your family tree together? Don't know what to do next? Turn to the Ancestry.com genealogy learning center.

    • Learn Genealogy
      An outstanding learning center with free videos, articles, and lessons put together by professional genealogists. A great place to get in-depth answers to family history research. Get started, find answers, join the community, and keep learning.




  8. Find Free Genealogy Free Resources

    Take advantage of the many free resources available to help with your family history.

    • Genealogy Freebies
      Genealogy doesn't have to be an expensive hobby. Take an advantage of these free genealogy resources as you search for your family history.


Start Your Family Tree.

Enter your name to discover your family's story.

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