Genealogical Resource Checklist
Beginning to research family history can be a big step. Many times, the family and the pedigree sheets used to keep track of the information will overwhelm a beginning family historian. The categories listed below will help the beginner to a good start.
Finding family sources at home would be the first step. Write a few family questions down that you want answered. Ask the oldest person in the family the questions and take notes or record the elder as they recall the old times and the names. With this information, try to find the family Bible, family letters, photographs, address books, and vital certificates such as birth, marriage, and death that might be in your home.
After gathering all the information you can from the relatives and places in your home where the family papers are kept, go to the county courthouse. Determine what state and county you need to find the record. If you live far away from where your family’s vital records are kept, you will need to ask for the records in writing. Once you find out where you need to request the document, you can use the Internet to find the county courthouses, Many times the department that holds the records will provide a form you can download and print. The department also will tell you how much the record will cost. Fill out the form, enclose the check, and patiently wait. You may wait for a week to a few months for the record. The records found in county courthouses are marriage, wills, estates, land deeds, mortgages, and naturalization records.
Using local and state libraries will help expand your family history research. Many libraries maintain a genealogy section and the reference librarians usually can help you with suggestions of what records to use to help your research. The records available in the library’s collection include county directories, cemetery and grave records, census records, state and county histories, old newspapers, tax lists, voter records, published family genealogies, obituary collections, abstract volumes, and public school records.
State courthouse records would include vital records, land grants, state census, militia records, tax lists, and other archives. National records would include all the categories above, but they also house passenger lists, mortality, military, pension, immigration, land, and special records.
By the time you have reached the national level, you will hopefully have developed a correspondence system. Compiling a checklist of who you have sent information and who has replied also will help you stay organized.
Now that you have honed your researching skills, you will be eager to fill out the family and pedigree sheets! The Internet will be the place to find valuable information on your family’s genealogy. Many genealogical databases will help you go back farther in generations. Many times you have to subscribe to the sites, but other times the databases are free, with information on how to order the record. You also may find others related to you looking for information on the family. For me, this is the best part of compiling family history — finding cousins and sharing research with them!