Getting Started in Genealogy Research

Step One:

There are 3 keys that will unlock the doors to your family research.

Key 1: Name – full name, nick name, variation spelling (Surname, Maiden)

Key 2: Date – day, month, year, and CA for about this time

Key 3: Place – city, township, county, state


Step Two:

Talk to family members who are still alive.  Ask them questions about their experiences, memories, and events in their lives.  Topics can be: family, travel, school, job, home, entertainment, holiday, sports, religion, military, and current events.  Always remember the 3 keys when talking to them and the 3 questions of what, how, and why.


Step Three:

Put the facts on a family group sheet.  Write up the information in story form and place it behind the group sheet.


Step Four:

Gather documents to support your information.  These could be obituaries, certificates of birth, death, marriage, grave sites, churches, and schools.


Step Five:

Photos: identify those in the pictures.  Use the 3 keys and 3 questions to write up what the photo depicts and place it behind the photo.


Step Six:

Look for clues in scrapbooks, diaries, photos, baby books, family Bible, or a box of stored keepsakes.  You might ask family members if they have any of these papers or other information.


Step Seven:

Check your local library.  They may have books and websites that will help you in your family search.  You might even find out someone has placed in the library part of your family history or even a book with you family members name in it.


Step Eight:

Websites can be helpful but you need the 3 keys to find the information.  Two common websites are and Ancestry is only accessible at the library.  Census records, military information, and other sources are available on these websites.


Step Nine:

Attend a genealogy class to learn more.


Step Ten:

Tools you will need to get started and for storage are:  family group sheet, pen, paper, notebook, dividers, and sleeves for documents. Technological tools might be a computer, smart phone, and camera.

Be sure to keep track of your sources.  Note where you got the information and when.