For Beginners

New to Genealogy? Some Guidelines for Starting Your Search

Besides basic books about beginning your family history, which are available from the local library, there is a lot of information on the Internet. A good place to look is on Cyndi's List under the Beginner category. Here you will find a lot of easy tutorials that will talk you through the process.

The main points in starting your family history, include:

 Begin with Yourself:   Most of us have information at home that is useful for genealogy, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, obituaries, funeral cards, letters, and much more.

Talk to Family Members:  This includes parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, anybody and everybody. Interview elderly relatives now! (Don't put it off or it might be too late).

Organize Your Materials:  Organize your materials as you find them. This includes recording information on pedigree charts and family group sheets and/or using a genealogical database computer program. Pedigree charts list you, your parents, your grandparents, and so on, back generation by generation. Free pedigree charts are available here. Family group sheets list the father, mother, and children that make up a family. Space is provided for detailed information such as full name, birthdate and place, marriage date and place, death date and place, burial place, and more. Free family group sheets are available here. Reviews of genealogy software can be found here. (These forms and the software reviews require the free Adobe Acrobat Reader plug-in).

Search the Internet:   Look for free information on the Internet. There is a lot of good information on the Interent and there is a lot of bad information on the Internet. Learn how to judge the source of the information. Understand the difference between actual records (for example Heritage Quest's or's scanned census images) and transcribed records (Family Search's 1880 census transcription) and individuals documented or undocumented family trees (Rootsweb's World Connect project). All of these are useful but you must be able to evaluate them.

Family Search is the site of the LDS Church's Family History Library, based in Salt Lake City. Information available on their site includes the library's card catalog; a lot of research guides; and searchable databases including the Ancestral File, Census, International Genealogical Index (IGI), Pedigree Resource File, Social Security Death Index, and Vital Records Index. The Census includes an all-name index to the 1880 census; the 1881 U.K. and 1881 Canadian censuses. The Vital Records Index includes records from Scandinavia and Mexico.

Rootsweb (our host) is part of the websites, which includes and Rootsweb hosts websites (such as the Siuslaw Genealogical Society's website) and provides a number of useful databases. The World Connect Project are family trees submitted by individuals. Many of the family trees are accurate and well documented; many are not. Use the information with caution and as a clue to further research.

U.S. GenWeb and its state and county pages Volunteers have created webpages for every state and county in the United States. These pages can be excellent sources of information on the places your ancestors lived. The quality of the sites varies greatly. Some have a great deal of information, including transcribed records, maps, cemetery listings and more, while other sites have only some basic contact information. Look for the query pages where people have posted queries about families living in that county , post your own query and see if anyone can give you more information about your own family. There is also a World GenWeb, which does the same for countries and regions.

Genforum consists of thousands of surname bulletin boards. Look for your family surnames and search and post queries.

Bureau of Land Management (Federal Land Records):  This site provides an excellent database of federal land records. These records consist of homesteads, cash sales, and more, where the land is being sold by the federal government to an individual. This site does not include land sales between individuals.

Finally, if you need information on just about any topic in the field of genealogy, check out Cyndi's List, the premier index of genealogical websites.

Search the Records:  While a lot of information is available on-line, most information is still not on the Internet. You will need to dig it out. This information will come from many sources: obtaining death certificates from state health departments; obtaining probate and land records from county courthouses; finding printed family histories through your local library; visiting cemeteries to record gravestones; looking through old newspapers; and on and on. What information is available for your family varies depending on time period and location. Understand that more recent information may not be available due to privacy restrictions.

Much of the information you will need is available through the Family History Library, based in Salt Lake City. Want to find out what is available on microfilm and can thus be ordered through your local Family History Center.  Check out their card catalog. Do a search for the state and county that your ancestors lived in and discover how much is readily available to you locally. For a small fee the local Family History Center will order microfilm for you. Florence's Family History Center is at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, located at the junction of North Fork and Munsel Lake Rds. You can write to county courthouses and obtain records that way. To find out the addresses to write to, check out The Handy Book for Genealogists, located in your public library.

The National Center for Health Statistics has a page listing where to find vital records for each state.

The National Archives has information on how to order pension records, land records, and more.

For more information check with your local genealogical society, staff at your local Family History Center, and staff at the public library. There is a lot of information and assistance out there to help you in your search!  Good luck!







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