Beginning Genealogy

Would you like to research your family history, but don’t know how to get started? The resources here will help you learn beginning genealogy skills.

We’ve combed the web to gather some great resources, and organized them into a Self-Paced Beginning Genealogy course. If you follow the steps in order, you should be well on your way to discovering and documenting your family history. Or, you can pick and choose among the resources for topics you would like to learn more about.


Step 1: Beginning Genealogy: Overview

These suggested resources will give you an introduction to family research and outline steps for getting started.

Afrigeneas: African American Genealogy: An Online Interactive Guide for Beginners

by Dee Parmer Woodtor, Author of Finding a Place Called Home

The Beginning Genealogist by Angela Y. Walton-Raji

Segment: Welcome Aboard


Step 2: Record What you Know, Interview Family Members

Ready to begin? Start by recording what you know, gathering documents you already have, and interviewing family members.

Resources for This Segment

Here are the charts and forms mentioned in the tutorials above. You will need them to get started in your research.


Record What You Know:

  • Editable 6-Generation Pedigree Chart use this chart to list names, dates and places for you, your parents, grandparents and great grandparents. You can edit this form and save it to your computer, or print it and fill it out by hand.
  • Editable Family Group Sheet Form from the Midwest Genealogy Center, a Family Group Sheet is used for recording couples and their children, with space to fill in dates and places that are important for researching each individual. You can edit this form and save it to your computer, or print it and fill it out by hand.
  • Free Genealogy Forms from Family Tree Magazine If you save these forms as text files you can edit them and save them to your desktop. If you save them as pdf files you can print them and fill them in by hand.


Gather Documents You Already Have:


Step 3: Decide What You Want to Learn, Make a Research Plan

Identifying your research questions and making a research plan will save time and help you focus.

The Beginning Genealogist by Angela Y. Walton-Raji

Segment: Plan Your Research Strategy

Resources for This Segment

These forms will help you plan and keep track of your research.


Step 4: Identify Records to Search

Now that your research questions are defined, you will need to identify records that may answer your questions.

The Beginning Genealogist by Angela Y. Walton-Raji

Segment: It’s All About the Records

United States, How to Find Genealogy Records

From the FamilySearch Wiki, this is a comprehensive overview of records and the information they contain

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Learn about records that are useful for genealogy research.


Step 5: Before You Search: Avoid Common Mistakes

Learn about (and avoid!) mistakes often made by beginning family researchers.

Avoid Traps in African American Genealogy

Avoid Traps in African American Genealogy

by Tony Burroughs: Archived Webinar on

Resources for This Segment

More resources for starting off on the right track


Step 6: Choose Tools for Compiling, Organizing and Backing Up Your Research

Choose a family tree program, choose a note taking and web clipping service, choose among options for backing up your family research. Learn about the world of online tools available to family researchers.

The Best Genealogy Software of 2015 Top Ten Reviews

Genealogy Software Review - From Top Ten Reviews

A feature-by-feature comparison of leading genealogy software

Avoid Traps in African American Genealogy

Explorinar: Evernote - Easy Note-Taking Updated

by Thomas MacEntee of High Def Genealogy

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These tools can help you organize, make it possible to access your research from anywhere, and perform automatic backups to keep your data safe.


Step 7: Now You’re Ready. Begin Your Document Search, Compile as You Go

Obtain and search the records you’ve identified. Compile as you go (don’t forget to cite your sources). What you learn from your record search will generate new questions, and new research leads.

Resources for This Segment

Search a wide range of resources for documenting your ancestors.


Step 8: As You Research: Connect With the Research Community, Learn from Others

Connecting with other researchers can greatly improve your research. Join the online research community at Afrigeneas. Join a research community on Facebook. Collaborate online with family members to further your research. Check out free genealogy webinars. Join a local genealogy society. Get connected!

Afrigeneas Screen Capture


AfriGeneas is a must online destination for anyone conducting African American or African Ancestored genealogical research. The AfriGeneas online research community features the AfriGeneas mail list, the AfriGeneas message boards and daily and weekly genealogy chats.

Book and Magnifying Glass

Facebook Research Communities

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Get connected to get the most from your research.


Step 9: Evaluate and Analyze What You Have Learned, Form New Research Questions

Evaluate source records. Apply the genealogical proof standard. Draw conclusions. Form new research questions based on what you have found.

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What have you learned from your document search? What new questions are raised? Which sources will help you answer new questions?


Step 10: Write and Share Your Family History

Write your family history. Publish your research. Create a genealogy blog.

Old Document

Getting Ready to Write: Compiling Your Family History

by Phillis Matthews Ziller for Genwriters

Pen and Paper

Resources for Family History Publishing

by Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers, a detailed list of resources for publishing your family history in print or online.

Resources for This Segment

Resources for writing and publishing your family history


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