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Genealogy and Family History

Book for Beginners

The following book is a good beginners' book in doing genealogy:

How to Do Everything Genealogy (2nd edition), by George G. Morgan, published in 2009 by McGraw-Hill.  This book is available online to USF patrons in the EBSCOhost eBook collection.  (The 3rd edition was published in early 2012 but the ebook is not yet available to USF patrons.)

Once the researcher has understood the basic process, additional books that cover how to do research for specific ethnic groups (such as English, Scottish, Irish, German, Italian, Hispanic, Scandinavian, Jewish, African American, or Native American) will be useful.

First Steps

  1. Determine your goal(s) for your genealogical research.  Are you doing it for medical reasons?  Attempting to join a lineage society?  Wanting to understand your family history better?  Just wanting to enjoy putting the puzzle pieces together?  Your goals will help determine your categories of questions and most useful types of resources to search.
  2. Determine your questions.  What question do you want the answer to at this point? 
  3. Determine what you already know.  This might include what is in your own memory and what documents or other artifacts you already possess.
  4. Determine what others know.  You may need to interview close and distant family members and friends.
  5. Determine the best sources for the questions you have.  These may be various kinds of records, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, obituaries, tombstones, census records, military records, immigration records, and so on. 
  6. Determine which repositories (real or virtual) provide access to the records you need.
  7. Determine if you can search the repository yourself or whether you need to hire a professional.  If the repository is distant or the records are in a language you don't speak, a professional may become useful.
  8. Determine if the records contain useful information.  You will need to understand the record, evaluate it, and come to decisions as to what it tells you.
  9. Determine what conclusions, if any, you can reach regarding your questions.  You may have answered the question, or you may need to do additional research.
  10. Determine how to publicize the results, if appropriate.  You may want to write a book, publish an article, post to a blog, or use some other means to communicate to others what you have learned.