Beginners Grin and Dare It

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Welcome to Beginners Grin and Dare It[edit | edit source]

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Sometimes Genealogical research can be intimidating to a beginner. The object of this page is to simplify the process as much as possible including links to assist you in your new adventure.

Gathering[edit | edit source]

  • Contact relatives for information.  Begin the writing pyramid by starting with known relatives and, after gleaning the information they know, ask them for addresses or phone numbers of other relatives who might be helpful.  If relatives say "I don't know anything", try the Rudyard Kipling approach "I keep six honest serving men (they taught me all I knew.) Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who."  Make your questions specific such as: Who is oldest relative you can remember?  Where did your family live? What funerals do you remember going to? How do you know this information?  Do you have old letters or documents?  Why do you think your family moved? What did your family do for a living? What religion do you think they were?  Were there any war heroes?

  • Make it fun for a family night.  Have a scavenger hunt asking the family to scatter and find certificates, bible records, any other documents relating to family; immediate and ancestors

  • Collect information from other sources, remembering that this information is only as correct as the sources used.  You will always want to learn the sources used or double check in case the information has been passed down like the old telephone game we played as children where the last sentence is totally different than the first.  You may wish to try some of the following websites.

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Getting organized can be likened to the creation of the world.  In fact, the same verbs can be used in both processes.  To avoid feeling overwhelmed this creation/organization process may be broken into six "days" of work.


Gather utensils.  Four loose leaf binders, plastic sheet protectors, five file folders


Label each notebook and corresponding file folder with the surname of a grandparent respectively - that's four. These notebooks will be used for research and the file folders will be used for storing papers which may not be needed at the present time. Label the fifth file folder with the words "Book of Remembrance." There are many ways to organize your notebooks. One very simple way is to have alphabetical tabs where documents can be placed or new information as it is acquired.


1.  Gather all your loose papers and documents.

2.  Divide the papers into four file folders depending on the family to which it belongs. If you have a LOT of information, use boxes or plastic bins instead of file folders for gathering and dividing.
3.  Gather  information and papers from other relatives who have been working on genealogy.

4.  Divide their papers by either "downloading" them into your computer or into one of your file folders.


In each file folder place the papers in chronological order for ease of the thought process during the typing stage.


1.  Choose a file folder and pick up the first paper.

     a.  Ask a question. Does this paper have information that needs to be typed into my genealogy program?   

     b.  If the answer is "yes" type the information into your program and record the source.  Then find a place for the piece of paper. "A place for everything and everything in its place."

     c.  The place for the paper could be in a plastic sheet protector and in the file folder for your future Book of  Remembrance, or three hole punched and placed in your notebook for research, or paper clipped and put back in the file folder it came from (mark that it has been typed), OR in the circular file commonly called the trash can.

2.  Repeat the creation process for each file folder. 


Enjoy the fruits of your labors. 

Choosing[edit | edit source]

1.  Choose a person or a family who may need further research.

2.  Decide what information you would like to know.  Record these goals on a research log.

3.  Choose records to search which will help you achieve your goals. To help you do this, find a Record Finder for your state or country. See the United States Record Finder for an example.

  • CENSUS:  In the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, the census has proved to be a very useful tool in establishing a place of residence at a certain time for a family. In later years, the census is also  valuable for locating entire families with accompanying birth years and other information.  Generally speaking, the census began in the United States in 1790 and was taken every ten years.  A fire destroyed most of the United States 1890 census, but the 1790 through 1940 censuses are now available for public perusal.  In Canada the census began as early as 1851 and is available through 1911.  The differing countries in Great Britain generally have the census from 1841 through 1901. 
Places to access the census: census images project (this website is often accessed for free by obtaining a username and password from local libraries)
  • VITAL RECORDS:  Vital records are records that deal with vital statistics, as in births, deaths, marriages, divorces or adoptions, and are important in establishing specific dates. The records also often contain other important family information such as parents names. The location of these records varies depends on the type of event and the year it occurred.  Most birth and death records in the United States begin in the early 1900's with the exception of some states such as a few New England states, large cities and even other scattered counties throughout the United States.
Places to access vital records online: 
Where to write for vital records:
National Center for Health Statistics maintains a current list of addresses, fees and websites for statewide birth,marriage, death and divorce records.

Copies of marriage records can usually be found at the county level from the county clerk.  To determine the address for  a county clerk, you may wish to "google" ________county clerk.