10 Tips for Starting Your Genealogy Research

There is one activity you can work on from home that will not only fill many hours but may actually find you wishing for a few more hours in the day - family history research!

You can search online for records, or even ask family members if they have information to share.

Genealogy research databases are available to you from home through our online genealogy resources. All you need is your TCPL library card! If you need a digital library card you can fill out an application online.

For those of you just starting your research, here are 10 tips that will make your genealogy research more fruitful.

  1. Fill out a pedigree chart.

A pedigree (ancestral) chart will help you sort out what you already know and what you need to find out. Start with yourself, on the left of the chart, and work backward with parents. Focus on one family branch at a time.

Ancestry Library has a basic pedigree (ancestral) chart available here:  https://www.ancestrylibrary.com/download/charts.

Don’t worry if you don’t have much information yet. You’ll start filling in those blanks as you research.

  1. Use a pencil! And a good eraser!

There will be errors in the information that you initially believe is correct. Use a pencil and save yourself the time and trouble of starting over completely when you need to make corrections.

  1. Talk to your family.

Interview family members and write down or digitally record their answers. Many are excited to share family history. Be respectful, and don’t push if they don’t wish to share.

  1.  Politely ask for copies of documents and photos.

Cameras or mobile devices are handy for taking pictures of materials if you can’t make actual copies. Don’t forget to include any identifying information, such as names or dates often written on the backs of photographs.

  1. Document, document, document!

Be sure to include where you found your information. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to hunt down where you found a bit of info because you got excited and forgot to cite the source!

  1. Understand that name and spelling variations will occur.

Over time, names may have undergone spelling variations. The use of initials or nicknames were common, as well. Be open to the possibility of spelling and name changes in your research.

  1. Stay organized.

Find a system that works for you so important information and documents aren’t lost.

  1. Back up your work!

Always keep more than one copy of your records. Many researchers like to keep both paper and digital files.

  1. Expect the occasional skeleton in the closet or unpleasant stories.

Most families have these somewhere along their lines. Expect the unexpected.

  1. Remember that genealogy research is a marathon, not a sprint!

Genealogy enthusiasts work for many years on family history. Patience is definitely in order!

Enjoy solving the mystery of your family history. If you need additional assistance you can email us your questions at genealogy@tusclibrary.org. 

~Gina Merrill 

Public Service Associate


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