Follow the four easy steps outlined on the form “How Do I Start My Family History?” available here. The first few are covered below. I'll cover the others later.
Identify What You Have
1. Do you have a computerized database of your genealogy and family history?
2. Do you have the information in paper form?
3. If you have neither, do you have a relative that does? If so, contact that relative(s) and ask for a “gedcom” copy of what they have computerized, a photocopy of their material, or take a digital camera and take pictures of what they have.
Don’t reinvent the wheel! Beg and borrow the work that everyone else has already done! This will give you the framework, but, not the finished work. Often, during the course of identifying the sources of the data you have gathered, you will find that mistakes have been made. There really were four sons named “William” in one family. Or, there were two James Millers living in the same town and both of them had sons named George.
Computerize Your Data
Obtain a software program on which to enter your data. Any software package will do. You can download PAF (Personal Ancestral File) from FamilySearch.org for free. Most people who do so, purchase add-on packages from various vendors to streamline the process, create additional reports and charts, search the IGI automatically and search for other records faster. Many other purchased software packages have these same abilities, and more, combined into one package.
Other software packages include: RootsMagic, Legacy, The Master Genealogist, FamilyTreeMaker, and Ancestral Quest, to name a few. If you already have access to new FamilySearch or you want to be ready for the release in Utah/Idaho you will find it much easier and faster to work with if you have either RootsMagic, Ancestral Quest, or the PAF add-on program, Family Insight. My personal preference is most definitely RootsMagic V4.
Research Your Data
Once you have gathered your records turn to the Internet for more information. There are literally tens of thousands of websites that contain data – both good and bad. Remember to gather ALL you can and then determine what is correct by gathering sources to confirm the accuracy of the data.
1. First, go to FamilySearch (or new FamilySearch if you have access.) FamilySearch contains the following databases and are searchable online for free.
Ancestral File- contains information from four-generation pedigree charts that were submitted by individuals to FamilySearch in paper form many years ago.
Pedigree Resource File – contains data submitted by individuals electronically. More data is included on the CD version of these files, located in the FH Center or FH Library, than is displayed on the Internet.
IGI (International Genealogical Index) – for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints it contains dates and temple codes for all ordinance work completed in any temple. It DOES NOT include records for the living, only for those who are deceased. It is updated daily. For others the IGI includes everything except temple ordinance information.
Census Index – contains transcriptions of the 1880 US Federal Census, the 1881 British Census and the 1881 Canadian census.
The US Social Security Death Index –includes many of the millions of people in the US who were issued a Social Security Number and their death was reported to the Social Security Administration. Birth years range from 1875 to the present.
Vital Records -- are transcribed vital records from Mexico and Scandinavia. Other vital records on CD's are located in the FH Center.