While it is tempting to jump back to the Civil War era and begin unearthing your relationship to Jefferson Davis or Abraham Lincoln, it is not the proper way to realize that connection.
Genealogical research moves backward through time, collecting pertinent information from reliable sources which allows us to form a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion, one ancestor at a time.
And it takes time. Lots of time.
And organization. Lots of organization.
Before you begin, you really should consider how you will compile your research or, at some point, the lack of organization will bury you. All-hardcopy? Digital only? Both?? If you go all-hardcopy you need to decide, file system or three-ring binders? If you go all-digital, you need to decide, online or desktop program?
Although your search begins with yourself, first gather anything and everything you have that contains information about a family member. ANY family member. Organize it using whichever system you chose. Family bibles, photographs, and scrapbooks are usually the easiest and best places to begin. Some people also have vital records (birth, marriage, and death certificates) that they can utilize.
Next, write down all your pertinent information: your birth date, your marriage date, the addresses of all the places you've lived, schools you attended, your religious affiliation, occupation, and any special interests and/or interesting things you’ve done thus far. Your genealogically minded ancestors will greatly appreciate this. You can compile this information on a family group sheet or write it like a story. I suggest both. You can download free blank family group sheets by clicking one of the links below:
Ancestry Family Group Record or FamilySearch Family Group Record
Then, compile your parents’ information. Same as what you collected on yourself. Make sure you list your mother’s maiden name. If your parents are deceased, include the dates and causes and places of interment. Don’t forget to include siblings on each family group sheet with all their pertinent information. You will likely have blanks on the sheet. This is okay.
Repeat the process with your grandparents on both sides of the house using maiden names for the ladies. Again, you will likely have blanks and again, that’s okay. Once you’ve completed their information with what you have on hand and in mind, you will be ready to begin to fill out an ancestor/pedigree chart or family tree and commence your family history research in earnest.
Need a free blank? Like the family group sheets, you can download free ancestor/pedigree sheets by clicking one of the links below:
Ancestry Ancestor Chart or FamilySearch Interactive Pedigree Chart
Next week we’ll explore ways to fill in your blanks and find more information.