Getting started with your own genealogical research is as easy as writing down what you already know!
However, in creating a valuable reference for others, you need to document where the information came from. So, like when you did term papers in school, with any genealogical research, it’s very important to record the source of your information.
Your source may be a published book, an historical document, the results of an interview with a family member or friend, or a family artifact. Sources exist all around us and many are easier to access than ever before thanks to the internet.
When you are taking notes, be extremely careful in your transcription of the document. Copy names and dates exactly as they are written (formatting aside). A different spelling of a name or a yet unknown nickname may be a clue to finding other records about the same person, or may help to decipher which of two records belongs to your ancestor .
As for dates, format them as day / month / year and use as many characters as possible to avoid confusion. By putting the month (in alpha characters) in the middle, you avoid the confusion of too many numbers running together. Another alternative, especially with electronic record keeping is to format the date year / month / day in order to sort the data into a logical timeline.
When you look at a record, consider who created the record and why. Think about who provided the information and whether or not they had a reason to be bias about the subject. Were they a first hand observer or repeating something they were told by someone else?
One of the biggest questions for genealogists—how do I organize everything? Although there are some common forms used in genealogy there is no standard for organization. Simply put, you need to use a system that works for you and no one can design that but you, yourself.
Be sure to review the following forms as references: (See my Downloads Section)
Family Group Sheet
It is also great to have a network of other researchers to call on for help or discuss your issues. Look for local repositories, classes or groups that you can join to share your new hobby. Remember not everything is available from your computer—you are, after all, documenting human beings!