Are you new to genealogy?
Revised 9 July 2010
A special note to new genetic genealogists: DNA testing does not
replace traditional genealogical research.
Tips for beginners:
1) You must start from the known (you) and work slowly, with proof, back to the next generations.
3) Start reading the guide at http://rwguide.rootsweb.com/
There are many sites with information for beginners. RootsWeb is free; it began on the early Internet before the Web existed and is populated by dedicated genealogy hobbyists willing to share information. For economic reasons it is now sponsored by the same company that owns Ancestry.com. However, while that company charges for most of its data, it has promised to keep RootsWeb data free to all.
4) Key information to a genealogist: names, dates, places, and relationships. Initially you'll be getting this information from your family records and relatives. As you learn more (for example, after reading the RootsWeb guide) you will know how to find new information.
5) If you have not already done so, join the RootsWeb
mailing lists for the surnames you are researching. Yes, there are other lists
and boards on the web but RootsWeb is the oldest and
has the more experienced researchers. See http://lists.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/findlist.pl
6) Learn how to search the list archives and post a message. When you post messages - called "queries" - on the net (or write letters to obtain information) be sure the subject of your message/query is descriptive. For example, "Lenhart" is too general and busy people won't read it. "George Lenhart, born about 1815, of York Co., PA" is better. Busy people will ignore a subject if it is too general but will read your message if the subject looks familiar or relates to an area of interest.
7) When you post to a message list or board include as much of this information as you have:
Full name (maiden name for
females if you know it).
Dates - Birth? Marriage? Death?
Any locales for those events? State? County? City/Town?
Name of parents known?
Names of any known siblings?
For example: Looking for information about the parents of George Lenhart, born about 1815, died 1884, of Dover, York Co., PA. He married Elizabeth Gerber before 1844. George may be the son of George and Margaret (Derr?) Lenhart of
Statements such as, "Looking for my great-great-great grandpa" are not helpful in a query
8) If possible, visit a
9) Record your information on family group sheets. Prepare a group sheet for
every family member who has children. Or enter your information into a
genealogy program and back it up often! You can download blank forms (see No.
2), order them by mail, or get them from an
10) You cannot obtain all the information you need from the internet but you can get started there. As you surf the net (start with the links at RootsWeb) you'll discover many resources - some free - some require a subscription. You'll also find many family genealogies (for example on WorldConnect at RootsWeb). Some of the information you find may be reliable but much of it will be erroneous - use the information for clues but do not believe everything you see. As you learn more about genealogy (see No. 3) you will learn how to locate good sources and how to properly document your family history.
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