Published January 1, 2009
Links to resources below are to the Library's online catalog, unless otherwise indicated.
Prepare | Gather | Organize | Research | Share
Before researching outside of your home, it is helpful to understand types of records available - their accessibility, terminology, and reliability. Reading one or more basic "how-to" books or online tutorials will help insure successful searching. Some examples are:
- The Complete Beginner's Guide to Genealogy, the Internet, and Your Genealogy Computer Program
- Cyndi's List: Beginners (Internet Site)
- Cyndi's List - Tutorials~Tutorials & Guides (Internet Site)
- First Steps in Genealogy: A Beginner's Guide to Researching Your Family History
- Genealogy 101: How to Trace Your Family's History and Heritage
- Online Roots: How to Discover Your Family's History and Heritage With the Power of the Internet
- Unpuzzling Your Past: The Best-Selling Basic Guide to Genealogy
Interview parents, grandparents and other relatives. Anecdotes and memories are just as important as dates and relationships. Take notes! If possible, record or videotape interviews.
Gather family records and photographs. Include official records (birth/death/marriage certificates and legal documents), but don't forget informal records of family events such as photo albums, baby books, newspaper clippings, school programs, and fraternal organizations. Take necessary steps to preserve and share these valuable records.
- How to Tape Instant Oral Biographies
- A Preservation Guide: Saving the Past and the Present for the Future
- Recording your Family History
- Uncovering your Ancestry through Family Photographs
Organize information and complete a generation chart (sometimes called an ancestor or pedigree chart) for your ancestors. This will serve as your "road map" for research. For each couple on the Generation Chart, complete a Family Group Sheet. Genealogical software programs can help you organize information.
Use maiden names for women and record dates with date of month first, followed by name of month, then year using four digits (for example, 4 July 1776).
Consider making an "ancestor profile" for everyone in your family tree. You can include photographs, medical information, hobbies, aptitudes, education diaries, and religious affiliation -- anything to form an idea of what that person was really like.
- Beyond Pedigrees: Organizing and Enhancing Your Work
- The Genealogist's Computer Companion
- Managing a Genealogical Project
- Numbering your Genealogy: Sound and Simple Systems
- The Organized Family Historian: How to File, Manages and Protect Your Genealogical Research
- Organizing your Family History Search
Begin with yourself, then work backwards by generation.
Standards | Guides | Vital Records | Court Records | Census | Military | Immigration & Naturalization
Evaluate reliability of information. Was information recorded when event occurred? When possible, verify information using original records, not compilations.
Carefully record each source of information. Make your description detailed enough so that others can easily find record if desired. Keep a research log.
- Cite Your Sources: A Manual for Documenting Family Histories and Genealogical Records
- Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian
- Standards for Sound Genealogical Research
- Ancestry's Red Book: American State, County & Town Sources
- The Genealogist's Address Book
- Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives
- Locating Lost Family Members and Friends
- Printed Sources: A Guide to Published Genealogical Records
- The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy
- The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy
Most states did not keep records of births and deaths until 1910. Marriage and divorce records are usually kept at the county level beginning at time of county formation. Access to information varies from state to state. For further information, see:
- Cyndi's List: Religion and Churches (Internet Site)
- The Handy Book for Genealogists: United States of America
- International Vital Records Handbook
- Social Security Death Index (Internet Site)
- Vital Records for the United States (Internet Site)
- Missouri Death Certificates 1910-1955 (Internet Site)
Vital records may also be found in church records. These may be located in denomination archives or in manuscript collections.
Court records exist on national, state, county and local levels and may include land, naturalization, probate and tax records as well as vital records (especially marriages and divorces). Knowing the court system in a particular state is essential for utilizing these records. County Courthouse Book contains a good summary of the system in each state.
The United States has taken a census every ten years beginning in 1790. Since privacy laws mandate that 72 years must pass before the census schedules are available to the public, the 1930 is the most recent available to research. The amount of information varies from year to year: 1850 was the first to list everyone in the household by name and 1880 was the first to give birthplace of parents. Now available in digitized formats as well as microfilm, most censuses can be easily researched. Printed indexes or the Soundex/Miracode exist for most years. Online indexes exist for every year through AncestryPlus.com and/or HeritageQuest Online. The entire 1880 U.S. census has been indexed by the LDS Church & can be searched online. Finding aids for the 1930 census can be found at the National Archives and Records Administration web site and at Obtaining EDs for the 1930 Census in One Step.
More information on the U.S. census can be found in:
- The American Census Handbook
- The Census Book: A Genealogist's Guide to Federal Census Facts, Schedules and Indexes: With Master Extraction Forms for Federal Census Schedules, 1790-1930
- Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Census, 1790-1920
- National Archives: Genealogists/ Family Historians -- Census Records (Internet Site)
- Your Guide to the Federal Census for Genealogists, Researchers, and Family Historians
Compiled service records, pensions, and unit histories as well as personal papers can be sources of information about U.S. military service.
- Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (Internet Site)
- National Archives Military Records (Internet Site)
- Missouri Soldiers Database: War of 1812 - World War I (Internet Site)
- Uncle, We are Ready: Registering America's Men, 1917-1918: A Guide to Researching World War I Draft Registration Cards
- US Military Records: A Guide to Federal and State Sources, Colonial America to the Present
Immigration & Naturalization
Many passenger lists did not survive especially in colonial times. Some customs passenger lists exist between 1820-1891. Immigration passenger lists may be found 1891-1954. Before the Immigration & Naturalization Service was established in September 1906, papers for obtaining naturalized citizenship could be filed in various courts. The massive indexing project by P. William Filby, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index (Detroit, MI: Gale Research Co., 1981 with supplements in 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000), is now available in CD-ROM (Family Tree Maker CD #354) and online. See also:
- American Family Immigration History Center (Ellis Island) (Internet Site)
- American Naturalization Records, 1790-1990: What They are and How to Use Them
- American Passenger Arrival Records
- Castle Garden: America's First Immigration Center (Internet Site)
- Cyndi's List: Immigration and Naturalization (Internet Site)
- A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your Immigrant and Ethnic Ancestors
- They Became Americans: Finding Naturalization Records and Ethnic Origins
- They Came in Ships: A Guide to Finding Your Immigrant Ancestor's Arrival Records
One of the greatest gifts you can leave your children, grandchildren and other relatives is a record of your family history research. Consider publishing your research and donating to a library or archive. The National Genealogical Society provides standards for sharing information with others.
- Bringing Your Family History to Life Through Social History
- Digitizing Your Family History: Easy Methods for Preserving Your Heirloom Documents, Photos, Home Movies and More in a Digital Format
- A Family Affair: How to Plan and Direct the Best Family Reunion Ever
- Producing a Quality Family History
- Publishing Your Family History on the Internet
- Web publishing for Genealogy
- Writing Family Histories and Memoirs
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