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How To Get Started Researching Your Genealogy?

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Just a few decades ago, genealogy researchers did most of their work in dusty libraries and research rooms, pouring over old records and hunting for translators.

Today, if you want to research your family heritage you can find almost everything online including census records, immigration documents, birth, marriage and death certificates and, of course, DNA data. Genealogy research is no longer a FairGo casino USA crapshoot, but if you’re going to succeed you have to commit to a methodical examination of all available resources.

Genealogy Research Today

Worldwide, genealogy research is a popular pastime. The genealogy products and services market stands today at $3 billion and is expected to reach $8 billion by 2026.  Much of the interest can be credited to Alex Haley’s book Roots which was made into a miniseries that aired in 1977. Haley’s ancestors were brought over to America as slaves and struggled over the years to survive in a society that was deeply antagonistic to black people.

Not only did Roots educate the public about the history of African Americans, it awoke a deep-seated need among many people to know more about their own ancestry as well as the biological connections that they had to long-lost relatives.

Researchers today have access to many more tools than did those who worked before the Internet. There are also well-developed genealogical societies for people researching every type of ethnicity as well as groups on social media where volunteer translators aid in translations of documents, tombstones and other written materials. Courses, both online and in-person, are offered to help people get started on their journeys of discovery.

Getting Started

Before you look at a single database or make a single chart, create a plan to organize the material that you collect. First, you’ll need to decide whether you are focusing on a specific lineage or on all your ancestry. If you are going to be researching your entire lineage, create separate sections – either online or in a looseleaf binder – for each of your family lines. It might be easiest to divide up by your grandparents – 4 sections, one for each grandparent – and then work backwards from that.

Check out some of the family roots software programs that you can use to organize your information. Some of the most-widely used programs include

  • Family Tree Builder – free
  • Family Historian – good for the non-tech-savvy and beginners
  • RootsMagic – widely-used
  • Family Tree Maker – effective but expensive
  • Legacy – more reporting features than on other programs

Digitalizing your family history will also make it easier for you to share your findings with relatives that you may discover.

Oral History

Don’t ignore the importance of oral history. Listening to the elders in your family can give you a huge jumpstart on your research and help you refine your research. If you can find out, more or less, when your family immigrated and to where, you’ll know which census records to search.

Write everything down. The oral history that you learn is an important first step in helping you move forward more quickly and efficiently. Don’t forget to write down who told you what so that you have a clear record of where your information came from.


Collect as many photos of tombstones as possible. Tombstones often provide information about the deceased person including their parents/spouse/children’s names. FindaGrave offers images of millions of tombstones worldwide.


There are many different types of records that you can find online today. The Vital Records Research Guide offers a good start at identifying where you can find records.

There are 2 types of records: compiled records and original records.

  • Compiled records are collections of information about a person, group or family.
  • Original records are vital records – birth, christening, marriage, divorce, military service, immigration, land purchases, employment, legal transactions, residence, death.  Original records can identify relationships between people, verify the accuracy of information obtained elsewhere, provide biographical data about people and give primary information about events.


By taking a DNA test you can obtain information about your ethnic history as well as contact information for other people with whom you share common DNA. Upload your results to MyHeritage where the results of all DNA companies are compiled.

There are a number of genealogy research classes given by libraries and research societies, both in-person and online, to help you push your search forward. Social media can also be a powerful tool for genealogy research with many online groups devoted to offering a forum where various members can help other members proceed, translate foreign language documents, etc.

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