People often wonder where they should start when researching their genealogy. While I would NOT suggest starting with a DNA test. That is $100 that could be spent finding documents that prove who your ancestors are. A DNA test only tells you what nationalities you are made up of. A DNA test is a great addition to actual research and documentation. The DNA test is still fairly new and different companies offer simliar and different results. I will cover that another time.
I suggest starting with 2 forms. One is a 5 generations pedigree chart. (See picture) You are number 1 on this chart. The males are always the even numbers. For example your father is #2. The Females are always the odd numbers, your mom is 3. Fill out as much of this chart that you can. It asks for very basic information on each married couple. Name, Date & Place of birth, marriage & death. Always use females MAIDEN names. If you don’t know it leave it blank.
The second form is a family group sheet. (see picture) This is a more detailed form for each married couple/family. Here you will put the same information of Name, date & place of birth, marriage, death. Name of the parents of the couple. It also has space for the childrens names, date & place of birth & death, and spouse information. Again fill in as much as you can on each sheet.
Now you have 2 sheets with some information on them. The goal is to fill in the blanks and find proof/sources of infromation/facts. So I would suggest (mostly because I was not capable of doing this), interview your family memebers. Record the interview, either audio or video. Start with the older family members because once they are gone so is the opportunity to talk to them. Listen to them and their stories and what they have to share. I am sure they shared them with you when they were younger but we don’t usually pay attention then.
Ask them for copies of documents like birth certificates, marriage records, divorce records, and anything they are willing to share. With computers and scanners it is much easier to store and organize records. I still have stacks and stacks of paper but I am a very hands on person. I also have the documents on my computer and on a flash drive. Heck I probably have them on CD some where. I just want to be covered in case of any time of emergency. I have a flash drive with all my other important paper documents in a zip lock bag in a fire proof box. Yes my genealogy research is just as important to me as my childrens birth certificates. I want this information to be handed down for generations.
Now this is all free to do. Minus any driving around you will have to do and if you have to pay for copies or anything. The other thing often documents for people who are still living are not available online. States like New York have restrictions in place. Often a record needs to be 75 years old before you can have access to it. And I can’t stress enough the importance of face to face interaction with your family members.
A great place to start is check out one of my favorite books.