Skip to Main Content

Genealogy Research Guide


Genealogy (from Greek: γενεά, genea, "generation"; and λόγος, logos, "knowledge"), also known as family history, is the study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history. Genealogists use oral traditions, historical records, genetic analysis, and other records to obtain information about a family and to demonstrate kinship and pedigrees of its members. The results are often displayed in charts or written as narratives.

Getting Started

Identify what you know about your family.

  • Gather information about family members by asking relatives, using family Bibles, journals, letters, newspapers, and obituaries.
  • Write what you know about your ancestors on a pedigree chart.
  • Write "surname" in all caps.
  • List the dates of birth, marriage, death, etc.
  • Write places in order: City/Township/County/State

Decide what you need to learn.

  • Birth Date
  • Place
  • Marriage Date
  • Place
  • Death Date
  • Place

Pick one of your ancestors and try to identify needed information (document pertinent information on other relatives as you find it).

Select records to search.

There are two types of genealogical records.

  • Compiled Records: These records have already been researched by others, such as biographies, family histories.
  • Original Records: Records that were created at or near the time of an event, such as; birth, marriage, death or census records.

Be sure to check computer resources that are available. 

Obtain & search records:

  • Many local libraries have good genealogical materials, especially for the surrounding areas of the library's location. Check Family History Centers, they are an excellent place to obtain records.
  • Look at a broad time period. Check for spelling variations, write down your results, document your source, even if you come up empty-handed (it will keep you from checking the same source again).

Use your information.

  • Evaluate what you've found. Did you find the information that you were researching? Is that information complete?
  • Copy the information to family group sheets and pedigree charts.
  • Organize the information. Use a system that works for you, i.e.: cards, notebooks, or computer.
  • Share your information with interested family members.