Where to begin your family history….
Like any project you begin at the end – What is the objective of your research. Do you want to find out where your ancestors originated from, the name of your great great grandfather, validate a family story or find out living descendants like yourself. Once you know what your goal is it’s easier to make a plan. Keep in mind that more than likely it will not be accomplished without some side trips.
Gather Data – Put to paper everything you do know. Names, dates, locations and even any vague family stories you may have heard
Interview – Ask your relatives if they would mind helping you build your family’s history. I was quite surprised that my own grandmother was initially not to keen on opening up about the past. Some memories can be painful so don’t push. I have never recorded an interview, but that would probably be a great way to capture the stories. When conducting the interview it is important to note the date, and location of the interview.
Begin with what you Know – Start with the facts that you know are true, and work your way backwards. Before jumping to the next generation, make sure you have the appropriate proofs to get there.
Internet Searches – While you can’t believe everything on the internet (or in printed books for that matter) there is a great information out there. Surname message boards, location message boards, Google Books, guides like Cyndi’s list, and mailing lists.
Set up a filing system – Start with a File for each Surname you investigate. As your collection grows, you will have sub-files. For example The DAY family I research I have the following files; Births, Marriages, Deaths, Census Somerset County, Census Morris County, Other Census, Bible Records, Vertical Files, Misc and the all important NEGATIVE.
Citations – Somewhere I came across a phrase – Genealogy without citation is mythology. Educate yourself on how to properly cite sources, and the difference in quality of sources (Primary vs Secondary)
Hit the Census Records, and off you go!