Genealogy Beginners

Supplies you will need.

Two three ring binders, a small notebook such as a steno pad, several black ink pens, several sharp pencils, and a supply of Family Group Sheets and Four Generation Pedigree Charts. The staff at the Information Desk can provide you with one copy from which you can make additional copies. Always write your name, phone number and address on each notebook.

Start with yourself and work backward in time.

Using the Four Generation Pedigree Chart begin with yourself and fill in as much information as possible. Interview family members and examine all documents such as family Bibles, wills, property deeds, photographs, letters, birth certificates and military discharge papers. Never start with a supposed ancestor and work forward.

Read one or more basic guides to genealogical research.

Some that we have in our collection are:

Unpuzzling Your Past: A Basic Guide to Genealogy by Emily Anne Croom (929.1 Gr88)

First Steps in Genealogy by Desmond Walls Allen (929 Al5)

Walking Through Your Past by Genealogy Society of Craighead County (929.3 Ge28)

Attend basic workshop.

Sign up for one of the basic genealogy workshops at the library, sponsored by the Genealogy Society of Craighead County. The charge for the workshops will vary.

Use the library resources.

Use the library's online catalog to search for material located in the library or at the branches. Genealogy Databases offer a wide range of information including census records from around the country. Patrons must have a library card to access the databases.

Always try to find primary sources.

Indexers, authors and abstracters inevitably make mistakes. Whenever possible, look at original wills, deeds, birth certificates and other documents, or copies of them on microfilm.

Read documents with caution.

You will see old-fashioned terminology, handwriting, spelling and grammar. There are tools to help you decipher old documents.

Beware the common pitfalls of research.

Think of ways your surname could be misspelled, then search under those spellings. Remember that boundaries and names of counties sometimes change. In recalling where they lived years ago, relatives may name the nearest big city rather than the actual locale, or say the name of the county seat when they mean to name the county. Study the ways various documents are organized before you try to use them.

Keep careful records.

Whenever possible, make photocopies of documents. Always record titles and dates of your sources.

Expect to visit many libraries and archives and to use many types of tools.

No single collection will hold every document that you need. Likewise, no single source will answer all your questions. You will eventually use most of the tools of the genealogist: census records, deeds, county histories, wills, death certificates, etc.

Note:

Please keep in mind that the library staff members are not genealogists. They can help you locate the published materials in the library, or suggest other sources, but they cannot do the research for you. If you need further assistance the library staff can refer you to a professional genealogist who will help you for a fee.