Just starting your family history research, you might not know much yet. Start by writing out what information, name, dates, locations you do know, even if you need to place a question mark by something.  You would be surprised at how much you may already know.

FamilySearch LogoNext, go to living relatives; older siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, even godparents as well as any old family friends and neighbors.  Never ask them to provide all the family lineage.  Instead pose a couple simple questions, such as your mother’s maiden name and her birth place.  After building on any answers, other questions will fall into place. Your amount of knowledge will greatly increase after meeting or writing to some of these individuals.  However, being accurate is important.  Your aunt might not know the marriage date of a grandparent, but does believe it was before 1930.  Put that information down with a question mark, it could be helpful later.

Next you have to verify some of the information provided. Select a couple of the ancestors and use the Family Search web site http://www.familysearch.org .  It is free using a computer and the Internet.  It is also available at your local library on their public computers.  The site will have ‘Ancestral Files’, ‘U.S. Census for 1880‘, ‘International Genealogical Index’, ‘Pedigree Resource File’, ‘Social Security Death Index (SSDI)’ and  ‘Vital Records Index’.  Using this site alone with will open all new possibilities of learning about your ancestors.

Start with the ‘Search’ tab at the top.  The dropdown will show ‘Records’, ‘Genealogies’, ‘Catalogs’, ‘Books’ and ‘Wiki’.  Start with ‘Records’ located at https://familysearch.org/search.  Fill-in the search boxes with known information — names, locations, and birth year range.  Note the small check box to the right of each search category.  You check that if you are 100% sure that is the right spelling or location.

The first results after you submit your information will be from the historic records (census, birth-marriage records, military records, etc).  As you scroll down the list the higher up on the list the more likely is the relative you are searching.  Never overlook the names further down the list because of different spellings, other names used (such as middle names) or even relatives related to the person being searching.

If you find one of interest click on the name and a transcription will appear. Note you can copy, print, share or add to your own ‘source box’ on FamilySearch.org.  To the far right will be a box ‘Details’ which is the same as the transcription. Next to it is the icon of a camera.  There will be the ‘Image Index’, laying out names, etc., just like would be on the document. Some actual images (such as 1880 census) will appear that are available with FamilySearch.  Other images will go through sites like Ancestry.com (fee based).

As you scroll down the listing there may be several pages of similar records covering different sources, review all of them.

New databases and records are being added to the site monthly.  FamilySearch.org is global, not just records from the United States, but thousands of locations around the world. It is estimated there are some 4 billion names / records with this free, inexpensive jump start for your research.