Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind

Getting Started

The first step in genealogical research begins at home and it starts with yourself.  Begin with yourself, getting your birth certificate and other records. Then get the records of your parents, and so on, backwards.  You may have copies of these already in your personal papers.  Also look for any cemetery deeds, newspaper clippings, old photos, and other documents you may find at home.

  • Use a pedigree chart, family group sheet, online family tree site or genealogy software or even just a notebook (whatever works for you) to keep track of the information you know and can document. Once you see what you know, you will also see what you don’t know – the places that will guide your research strategy.
  • Talk with your relatives to see what information they can add to what you know and have found.  Often the more you know and can seed a conversation with details, the more information they will remember, even if it disagrees with other facts you have uncovered.
  • Visit local libraries and historical societies to look at printed material specific to your geographic area, including newspaper archives, published family histories, and books about local history.  Both often maintain websites with information about local records and where to find them, lists of cemeteries and people buried in them, and local history that helps provide background to your family story
  • Look at Cyndi’s List (http://cyndislist.com ), a wonderful free resource to other online genealogical information worldwide.
  • Try doing a Google search for a geographic area and what you are looking for (Mildenhall cemeteries, Smith County churches).
  • Explore Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org, two of the fundamental online research tools for genealogists.  It offers two levels of paid accounts and a free guest account that will allow you to create an online family tree and do limited searching without letting you see original documents.  The Yale community also has access to a campus-wide library account that does allow you to search and view all original documents in the database.
  • Visit your closest LDS  Family History Center for access to primary sources that are not locally available.

Your search will require patience, time, and some expense, and may take you to other states in pursuit of elusive records or to the home country of an immigrant ancestor.  Remember that  a good researcher also delves into the history and sociology of the lands and periods in which her ancestors lived.  If we understand the place and period, we can better understand the records that resulted and make the people more alive.

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