This post may contain affiliate or referral links that help keep this site running. For more information about this, please see our disclosure policy.
Several years ago, I began researching my family genealogy. I have always had questions about my family; in fact, I have never met anyone on my Mother’s side. Since I love history anyhow, there seemed to be no better way to get the answers to the questions I’ve had than to begin working on my family tree. What I have found and what I still find, continues to amaze me with each branch that I clear as completed. After several years of working on my own family genealogy, I’ve come to realize that there are a lot of things – sort of genealogy for beginners – that I wish I had known when I first began. It would have saved me a lot of time and trouble had I known them.
Researching my own family genealogy has been a journey to put it mildly. I have discovered things that none of my living relatives knew; such as the fact that my ancestors owned almost 900 acres of land in Southern Ohio at one point. I have discovered that my ancestors were founding members of the United States, arriving at Jamestown with people such as Captain John Smith. I have found that we descend from the Kings and Queens of Europe and while that doesn’t mean much today, it is a pretty cool fact. And yes, I found those elusive family members and ancestors on my Mother’s side which to be honest, has only led to more questions. I have also learned a few things which is why I wanted to put up a few tips on genealogy for beginners in case you too find yourself wanting to track down answers.
Genealogy for Beginners – 9 Tips for Researching Your Family Genealogy
When you first begin researching your family genealogy, you’ll want to have as much information as possible. On my father’s side, I was lucky to know the info – names and dates of birth and death – for several generations back. On my mother’s side, I wasn’t quite as lucky which is why it took considerably longer to make legitimate connections. The more information you have to begin with, the better luck you will have.
Genealogy for Beginners #1 – Know why you’re researching
Tracing your family genealogy can be frustrating and extremely hard to do at times which means that if you aren’t one-hundred percent sure why you’re doing it; you’ll give it up and quit. There will be times when you run into dead ends. There will be times when the documents you’re finding don’t make sense. There will be times when you want to just lay your head on your desk and give up. Know why you’re researching your genealogy will help you through those times. For me, I’ve been driven my entire life to know about that lost side of the family. It is those questions from my childhood that has kept me going when the research gets tough.
Genealogy for Beginners – Keep the Right Tools in your Genealogical Toolkit
The single best place to start your family genealogy search is Ancestry.com. You’ll need a place to keep the records you find and Ancestry provides that. Not only that, but Ancestry also has most of the records you’ll need; at least the beginning of your search. For me, I wouldn’t be where I am in my own family history search if it wasn’t for the tools that Ancestry provides. When you first being, you can choose the United States only membership for $19.99/mo. This ensures that you won’t be paying for records you don’t need just yet. Later on, if you need, you can upgrade to their International membership. If you’re not certain that you want to make the leap to paying for Ancestry, that’s okay. You can sign up for a free 14 day trial to Ancestry.com right here.
You’ll also want to keep a dedicated notebook where you make notes, brainstorm and keep any other family history information that you might come across. For my own searching, I use a blank bullet journal. Each page is dedicated to a specific family member that I may be having trouble finding information on so that I can write things as I come across them and keep track of thoughts as they come to me.
Genealogy for Beginners – Continue to educate yourself
As you go through tracing your family genealogy, you’ll want to continue to educate yourself. Furthering your genealogy education will only make things easier for you in the long run and may actually become a home business idea for you later on down the road. It is easiest to start with a few books, but there are also genealogy courses you can take to help you learn new skills as well. If you’re looking for a few good genealogy books to get you started, How to Do Everything: Genealogy, Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher and The Family Tree Problem Solver: Tried and True Tactics for Tracing Elusive Ancestors are all great places to start. If you’re a Prime member, they will all ship free with 2-day shipping. If you’re not a Prime member, you can sign up for a free Amazon Prime trial here that gets you 30 days free. If you have an Ancestry.com membership, they also have an Ancestry Academy that you can go through to help you learn new skills as well.
Genealogy for Beginners – Trust, but verify and always meet GSP
As you work through your family history, you will come up against thousands of documents, photos and other records that all need to be verified. Some will be quite easy to verify while others may take much longer. Your family tree is not one-hundred percent complete until you have verified all of the information on it. A lot of the time, the information you come across will be correct, but it isn’t always. Documents can be transcribed incorrectly. Books can be written wrong. Photos can be labeled incorrectly. Everything that you add to your tree needs to pass the Genealogical Standard of Proof (GSP). Basically, you need to be able to document multiple sources for each record that you add. If you’re interested in reading more on the GSP, Family Search has an interesting three-part series that can be a huge help.
Genealogy for Beginners – Work Slowly
One of the biggest mistakes that I made when I first began researching my family history was that I worked too quickly and trusted too much information without verifying. All this lead to was me having to completely restart my family tree from the beginning. Instead of rushing, I wish I had worked slowly and verified the info the first time. I would likely be much father along in my research if I had. It is incredibly easy to run to rush through and find all the answers immediately. You won’t find them quickly though if you rush; you’ll only end up costing yourself more time and frustration.
Genealogy for Beginners – Put Your DNA to Work
Your DNA is a combination of all of your ancestors and because of that, it can help you in your family history work. having your ancestral dna tested will tell you things like where your ancestors originated from and if you use a test like the AncestryDNA test from Ancestry.com, it can even help identify relatives. I had always been told that my father’s side of the family was of German ancestry, however, once I had my DNA tested, I discovered that my ancestry is primarily Scandinavian. If I had not taken the time to do the DNA test, I might have never realized that.
Genealogy for Beginners – Document for Others
I’m sure you aren’t the only member of your family who would like to know what your family genealogy holds and I’m also sure that the ones who do want to know would be grateful to you if you documented everything for them.You could write everything out in book form, you could use Microsoft Word to write it out or you could start a genealogy blog to keep track of everything. If you decide to go with Microsoft Word, be sure you keep your pages in order. If you decide to go with the genealogy blog option, you can learn how to start a blog right here for less than $4.00 per month. Either option is great, although I do lean toward the blog option. Having a genealogy blog makes it possible for others who may be outside of your immediate circle to access the information for their own research.
Genealogy for Beginners – Take a break when you need it
Like I said earlier, tracing your family history can get pretty frustrating at times, especially if you find yourself hitting brick wall after brick wall. If this happens, take a break. Pause any subscriptions you have and walk away from it all for a few weeks or months. When you come back to it, you will be doing so with fresh eyes and a refreshed mind.
Genealogy for Beginners – Don’t give up
Before you even begin to research your family history, accept that it will be hard at times. You will come across dead ends. You will have records that conflict with other records, a good example of this is my maternal grandfather. There are hundreds of records on him that all spell his name around 10 different ways. I won’t even discuss how much trouble I had connecting my maternal grandmother to her husband or my mother. When those moments happen, move on and work on another branch or like I said above, take a break. You will eventually find the answers, but they aren’t going to be easy to come.
I earned over $100,000 blogging last year! Click here to learn how to start a blog and make money blogging!