persons interested in their family origins start as surname searchers.
They examine indexes, walk through cemeteries, search who's who books,
and biographical encyclopedias under the surnames they know of from their
families. This is starting at the wrong end of the process.
Begin with yourself. Make certain that you have the birth, marriage,
and death dates and places for your spouse, children, and grandchildren.
Use family group records available at local genealogy shops, bookstores,
and stationers. You may wish to use one of the many computer programs
that help you compile this data on your computer's
hard drive or on diskettes. Local computer software dealers will be
able to help you find a genealogy program. Local libraries may subscribe
to the magazine Genealogical Computing, in which you will find
articles about genealogy software programs.
After you have recorded dates and places for each member of your immediate
family, do the same for your parents, brothers and sisters. Include
your siblings spouses and children. Once this task is accomplished,
fill in family group records for grandparent families including
their children, children's spouses, and children. One generation at
a time, moving from the present into the past, you will discover your
Usually within the first four generations the generations between
you and your great-grandparents you will find gaps in the information
you have about a birth, marriage, or death of an ancestor. Now the detective
work begins. Your goal becomes the discovery of facts about ancestors,
their children, their children's spouses and children. The best place
to start your search is among living relatives: your siblings, parents,
grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. Learn if they have more information
than you do about forebears. You can extend your search to family members
you have never met by using books like Elizabeth Petty Bentley's Directory
of Family Associations. Your local library may have a copy. Many local libraries also
have microfiche or CD collections of telephone books from most areas
in the United States. Researchers often use telephone directories to
make lists of persons from areas where their families lived and who
have the same surnames. Post cards can be sent to the persons found
with a query about their relationship to your ancestor(s) from the area.
As you gather information, arrange it under the family (mother, father,
children,) that the materials describe. File the family group records
you compile in generation order: yours first, then your parents, grandparents,
and so on. Use a pedigree chart as an index of your progress. Again,
local genealogy shops, book stores, and stationers will have charts
you can buy. The first person on the chart will be you. Next, your parents,
and then each generation of grandparents. Under each person's name will
be a space to record their birth, marriage, and death dates and places.