I was very fortunate to be able to spend many hours with my grandmother, Fannie Svillia Thompson JONES, before her passing. She had an amazing memory and was able to give me many names, dates, and places to start me off.
Begin by talking to your parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. You want to document your interviews (record on audio tape if possible), and use some of the many forms that are available to keep track of what you learn.
Keeping Track of Your Research
I recommend starting an electronic database as early as possible. I use Family Origins 7.0 from Genealogy.com. I've also recently discovered a program to electronically file and track my documents at www.clooz.com.
I also began a file system early on. I use large binders with copies of all documents including interview sheets. It worked for me to have a separate section for each surname, subdivided by state, then county. The first page of each surname is an ancestor chart, followed by a family group sheet for each ancestor. Each subsection then begins with an index page by which I document the source information for each document in that section.
All official documents, I keep in a separate binder which is indexed also. The documents are in "safe" sheet protectors. This includes newspaper clippings.
After gathering all the information my family had, I went for corroborating the evidence. I'm close to Washington, DC so I was able to go directly to the National Archives to search the census records. This helped me to confirm names and narrow down dates of birth, marriage, etc. Census records are also available at some local libraries, LDS centers, and local Genealogical and Historical Societies. Of course many census records are also available on CD and now a growing number are available on line:
After searching census records I had enough information to go to county court records for births, deaths, marriages, land records, and wills. Many courthouses will search vital records (for a price, of course) and send you copies via mail. Where to Write for Vital Records is available pdf format with addresses and fees.
As you begin "searching" online, please don't go clicking willy-nilly. Set up a system and document the sites as you search, noting the names you've checked and the dates you searched. It may seem time-consuming at first, but as you begin revisiting sites, you'll be glad to have a record of what you did or did not find on your last visit.
If you get tired of writing you can cut and paste the links to the Wordpad, type the date and the names you searched, and print out a copy when you're done.
It is also very helpful to join e-mailing lists for the surnames or locations that you are searching. You can find links to lists at the first link below.
A really good place to start online, to find links to everything is:
The LDS (Mormon Church) search site is at:
To search in specific regions/states around the country go to:
Or visit my Locations page.
To search Virginia State Library:
For more information on starting your genealogy research try these sites: