November 27th, 2013

Basic Research Steps for Beginners

I thought I would take the opportunity to review some basic research techniques to help those beginning the search for their family history. More and more people are becoming involved in genealogy projects everyday; for those just beginning the initial concept of tracing their lineage back through the centuries can be quite overwhelming. The following steps however can help you to get a jump-start on your research and simplify the process. The key to a successful search for your ancestors is as simple as selecting a key starting point. Once you select a particular individual to begin with, the rest will follow; as long as you stick to the following basic set of steps.

  1. Decide What You Want to Find Out First - Once you have gathered some basic family data; review it to determine what you already know and what you need to find out. Once that is sorted, pick a particular fact that you want to uncover and begin researching it.
  2. Identify a Possible Source of the Information You Seek – Different genealogical records reveal particular information about relatives. If you are seeking a birth date, search for birth certificates, if it’s the name of the children of an individual, try census records.
  3. Locate the Record or Source – Once you decide on the type of record or other source you need, find out where and how it can be found. Can you search it online, or do you need to visit an archive or library? Once you locate the record or database, search for your ancestor within it.
  4. Record What You Find or Don’t Find – It’s as important to record what you don’t find as what you do. If you do find important information, make a copy of it if possible, if not write the information down yourself in a notebook. If it’s a photo you find, try to print or download a copy. If you don’t find any info on your relative, take note of that as well so you don’t forget to pursue that information in the future.
  5. Assess Your Position – If you found the information you were looking for, continue onto the next step. If not, go back to step 2 and try to find another possible source of it. You may need to go back and forth between these two steps a few times, as you don’t always uncover information on the first attempt.
  6. Analyze the Information You Found – Did the information you found match the facts you already have about your ancestor? Is the record a primary source that can be validated, or is it a secondary source that needs to be verified. Asking such questions will help you to determine what you need to do next.
  7. Organize, Organize, Organize – It is critical that you record everything you find in a manner that you can easily refer to later. If you don’t keep track of your data in an organized manner, you will become confused and frustrated later in your research. If you need help with organization, have a look through our Free Genealogy Forms, there is one for every stage of research, and they are completely free and easy to download.

These are basic research steps that even professional genealogists use. Following this basic format throughout your research will ensure you maximize your chances of a successful ancestors search. Happy Ancestor Hunting!