Have you heard someone talking about genealogy, or telling some great family story that their family shares and wish that could be you? Or did someone you work with tell you that they had found out they were related to Thomas Jefferson and it made you wonder if you were? Don’t despair. You can start your family history and find your own intriguing stories.
This is my attempt to help to start your search. Please follow the basic steps below and the information will hopefully help you get started.
Step #1: Print out blank Family Group Sheet forms and Pedigree Chart.
The Family Group Sheets will be used for each family group, father, mother, and children. (These are available on-line or master copies are available for your use at the Sweetwater County Library or print out by using the Blank Forms link on this page.)
Step #2: Always start with yourself. On a Family Group Sheet add your spouse or significant other. Fill in all the blanks-birth date, place of birth, etc. Once this is done, add any children that you may have natural, adopted, living and deceased.
Step #3: On additional Family Group Sheets, do your parents, you and your siblings. From here continue with any information you might have on the grandparent and do a new sheet for each family group. Continue in this way until you have all the generations that you currently know to be true. Do not add anything that you are not sure of.
Step #4: Transfer the information for your direct bloodline on to the Pedigree Chart. This will give you a better idea of your line and how far back you have gathered information. As you continue, add any additional persons you find to this sheet that are in your direct line.
Step #5: This is where the true research begins. Take the most current sheet that is missing information and begin with it. For instance, your great-grandfather is only know by is last name and no other information is know about him. Each family has a person or two that are the usual story tellers or record keepers. Ask your family if there is such a person in your family line. If so great, go to them and hopefully they will be willing to share. If not, start doing family interviews. Ask alot of questions. Get people talking. Video record or audio tape the interview, this can be very useful for future use. Ask for pictures and documents, family bibles, anything that might have more information. Be prepared to pay for copy fees or scans.
Step #6: Try to find a birth certificate for the person you are working on. Most birth certificates will have both parents’ names and basic information included. If you do not have access to this document you can write or in many cases go on line, to the Vital Records Department for the state they were born. Prices vary by state. Keep in mind when ordering, you might choose to request a photocopy not a notarized copy of the birth certificate. Photocopies are much cheaper. Not all Vital Records Departments offer these, but it is worth asking for. (Out of country research might be done on-line).
Step #7: Death records are next on the list. Contact the local cemetery sexton or City Hall for the area you are researching. They should have the records you need. Ask for a photocopy of any records such a cemetery plot records. In the past I have found complete family group by doing this. I requested a copy of the plot record and my great-grandparents and several of their children were buried in the same family plot. There were dates of death and full names, which is so important. Also the country they were born was listed. This is a big help as well.
Step#8: From here you will have to try several other avenues. Church records, school records, local museums and libraries, etc. Most libraries allow Inter-Library Loans which allows you to barrow items from another library. If you are looking for a history of say
Step #9: The Internet has a vast listing of sites that can be used. Some are free, some are not. Be prepared to take your time and read the basic information for each site. For instance, The Ellis Island website, will give information on passengers and ships, but you will usually need to look through several records before you find the right one. (http://www.ellisislandrecords.org/)
The Sweetwater County Library subscribes to two databases for your use, AncestryPlus (in-library use only) and Heritage Quest. For assistance ask at the library’s Front Desk.
The library also has several books that will assist you with your on-line search. One book that might be of use to the new researcher is “Genealogy Basics Online” by Cherri Melton Flinn. You will find helpful hits and websites that will make your search a bit easier.
Step #10: Keep good records. Try to list your contacts and internet sites for future use. If you have information that is not always complete, file it. It may come in handy at another time when you have filled in a few blanks.
Genealogy takes patients. Yes it can be a long drawn out process, but once you start to see the results it will all be worthwhile.