"It doesn't matter whether your computer is able to compile all the family group sheets for everyone that ever lived on the earth, it remains the responsibility of each individual to know his kindred dead...Even if the work is done, then it is still each person's responsibility to study and become acquainted with his ancestors".......Joseph Fielding Smith
Step 1.....Fill out a Pedigree Chart.
A Pedigree Chart, when filled out with all the information you know at the moment, will aid you in the following ways:
a) At a glance you can follow a family line for several generations.
b) At a glance you can see what information you are lacking and can begin researching for it.
Begin with yourself as #1, and work back on your family lines as far as you can go with the information you have at the moment. Take a highlighter and mark the areas that are lacking information. This alerts you to what you need to search for and when you find the information then enter it on the highlighted area.
Note: to print out a blank pedigree chart and other genealogical forms, go to:
Step 2.....Gather and organize all available papers and documents you have in your possession pertaining to any of your ancestors. Many of us have boxes and boxes of unorganized genealogical information around our homes. Well the biggest first step is to organize what is in those boxes! Big job? Maybe! But it is not going to get finished unless you start working on it...bit by bit....little by little.
Gathering and organizing will help you know what information you already have. By knowing what you have, you can then research for what you now know you need. You do not want to search for 20 years for a bit of information on an ancestor only to discover afterward that you already had it in the bottom of a box of family papers in your house. This is a true story that happened to someone. So, how do you gather and organize?
a) Aside from the boxes of genealogy that you may already have, go through other types of boxes, drawers, rooms, attics, garages, basements, nooks and crannies and pull out any piece of paper that pertains to any ancestor. Your parents information you will also want to gather. Put all these ancestor papers in a separate large box. We are trying to gather into one spot.
b) Ask relatives for copies of any documents that they might have for any ancestor. It is nice that they have it---but you need to have copies in your home for your children's sake. Put these copies that you collect from relatives in the above box.
c) When you feel that you have collected and put into the box all that you have, then obtain 4 smaller boxes or very large envelopes. You have 4 grandparents....so, label each box or envelope with a grandparent's full name (maiden name for women).
d) Take the large box of papers that contain all that you collected around your house and from relatives and begin...piece by piece...sorting them into one of the 4 smaller boxes or envelopes according to which grandparent line it belongs.
e) Make a filing system using hanging file folders and manilla folders. Label a folder for you and your spouse, a folder for your parents, folders for each of your grandparents, and folders for each of their parents.
f) Take each of the 4 small boxes or envelopes and file the papers into the folders you created. At this point you can also begin opening up those boxes and boxes of genealogical records that is sitting in that other room and start filing them into the file folders, also. If you want, you can temporarily put photos of ancestors into this file system or create another system for your photos if you like. If you know how to use a scanner, you can scan some of your documents and photos into your computer and link them with your computer genealogical data software program that is discussed in Step 3.
Step 3.....Set up a computer genealogy database using one of the many genealogical software programs on the market. Personal Ancestral File ( PAF ) is a good one, also Legacy. These programs help you store and organize your information.
To download a free version of PAF, go to: http://www.familysearch.org/eng/paf/
A computer genealogy database is formed from the information in your file folders.
a) Beginning with you (and your spouse and children), enter names, dates, and places for your ancestors into your program. As you begin typing this data into your computer program you will begin forming a growing database that will help you organize and link families together. You will then be able to print out filled-in family group sheets, pedigree charts and much more. You can attach photos to your ancestors names, show copies of original vital records and other documents pertaining to them and do many more fun features with your program.
b) A genealogical database is important when you want to easily share your family lines with others and for keeping track of notes, sources and research ventures pertaining to your ancestral database. The value of your database will become more clear to you as you begin this project.
Step 4.....Do research to find the missing information about your ancestors.
Research information can be found in published books of family histories, on microfilm and microfiche, census records, Church/Parish records, land records, Wills and Probate records, immigration records, military records, internet surname searches, and a host of others. Great help can be found by joining various e-mail lists or groups. There are surname groups, area groups, Societies, and more. Posting on message boards can also help in discovering many names of ancestors. There are many people out there on the Internet who are very happy and willing to share their information or even do free look-ups for you.
a) On the Internet "Google" website, type in and search for: "family history" or "genealogy". Many websites will come up that will aid you in your researching.
b) Try searching by area....such as "Illinois genealogy", or "Illinois Vital Records". A very good research site is www.familysearch.org.
c) Try doing an ancestor name search. Type in the name of your ancestor, using quotation marks before and after the name so that the search will keep the two names together and be limited to only the names you have within the marks. See what the search pulls up...you might be surprised.
d) Be sure to enter any new information you find into your computer genealogical database. Always strive to use good and complete sources, when entering your information.
Step 5.....Leave a Legacy.
Remember that you will be a lot of people's ancestor some day and that it is important for you to leave your posterity a legacy of you.
a) Compile your personal history so your posterity will know about you and your life.
b) Keep a journal of sacred things in your life and your special spiritual thoughts that will comfort, teach, and guide your family.
c) Teach your children the importance of doing genealogy and Family History and show them how to do it so they develop a habit and love of the work.
Final Step.....Make working on genealogy a regular habit for the rest of your life. Be sure to keep up on the latest technology and the exciting new changes and developments that is occuring around us all the time in the field of genealogy.
Most importantly.....have fun and enjoy!