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Pointers for starting Basic Genealogical Research:

  1. Start with what you know about your immediate family and work backwards.

  2. Interview parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.  Most of them will have some clues that you will be able to use in your quest.

  3. Get in the habit of using spiral notebooks for recording your data.  They will be very handy in keeping your research in some form of chronological order.  You will have plenty of loose sheets of photocopies and miscellaneous notes to file but if you use the spiral notebooks they will be a big help as the years go by to be able to go back and refer to.

  4. Make a Pedigree Chart of your direct ancestral line, and then make Family Group Sheets for all of the married couples.  The FGS is probably the most important document to create because that is one place that you can see a family unit with all of their detailed vital statistic dates.  There is a place for the husband and wife, each of their parents names, and all of their children and who the kids married.

  5. Use all of the Federal Census and State Census data that you can get on each person.

  6. Visit the cemeteries and record the stones of known people of interest and also note the names and dates of the people that are buried immediately adjacent to them.  Chances are you will find that they are related.  The cemetery office or sexton might also have more detailed information than what is on the stone or a stone might be lacking but they would have the burial information.

  7. After death dates are known try to get newspaper obituaries because they might give additional information on other family member’s names.

  8. After you have recorded a few weeks of data, go back and interview the relatives that you had done before.  They will no doubt have remembered more details to tell you and when you show them what you have accomplished to date it will no doubt jog their memory and you will come up with some brand new clues.  Always ask if they might have any old family bibles, diaries, family records, old letters, family photographs, etc., that you might be able to copy.  These will lead you to many more details that will help to confirm relationships.

  9. There are many thousands of free websites that you will be able to get information from on the Internet.  If you get serious about this endeavor you might also want to subscribe to some of the pay sites where you can get actual census details online.

  10. Some of the often used sites that I refer to are:,, (the Mormon site,),,,, (going down to the basic county webpages will be most helpful,) and many more very useful free sites that you will learn.  A very good site that is available is which is the Godfrey Memorial Library in Middletown, CT.  This library exists exclusively for historical and genealogical research.  If you purchase one of their library cards for $35.00 per year you will have access to several exciting databases including newspapers and many wonderful resources.  They have recently started a program to digitize all of their out of copyright materials.

  11. Join a Genealogical Society.  There will usually be one near the area that you live or at least join one at a regional or statewide level.  The information and education that you will get from them will be invaluable.  They usually sponsor seminars and training classes that will also be most helpful.

  12. Get a Genealogical Software Program for your computer and document all of the data with your sources as you enter the information into your database.  There are many free or shareware programs that you can download off the net.  I have used Brothers Keeper for many years but converted over to Legacy a couple of years ago.  The Mormons also have a free program called PAF, which you can download.

  13. Once your data is computerized you will be able to look at it in standard chart formats and print out nice reports, and share data with others through the mail or email.  Most of these programs also have ways of adding scanned or downloaded images into your database which will make for a very professional looking report.  There is also room to add biographical text which will keep the data from becoming dry to the casual reader and you can put meat on the bones of your long gone family members.

  14. Sharing with others will always bring nice results in return.  You will find that most everyone in this hobby is willing to share their data and you will be able to keep building with the use of work done by others.

  15. Some other places that you will want to become acquainted with are the records that are available in various courthouses, such as land records, estate records, guardianships, and various civil records.  These places will give you specific details that you will be able to receive no where else.

  16. New York State vital record indexes for Births, Deaths and marriages are now available at the Onondaga County Public Library (OCPL) in Syracuse, as well as in Albany, NYC, Rochester, and most recently in Buffalo.  From the index information you will be able to send for an actual photocopy of the certificate and you will be able to learn more specific facts from that.

  17. The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is online and free.  It can be searched at  You can also download many free forms such as census extraction forms, from

  18. There are some very good sites that you will be able to look at old maps, current and old topographical maps, Aerial and satellite photos and many other very useful free sites of interest.

  19. This is a hobby that will consume you if you get hooked, but set some goals and go out and record that data.

  20. If you have questions as you progress, drop me a note and I will be glad to give you some pointers on the next place to look for more information.

  21. Buy books, take courses, have fun !!!

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