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Materials Needed to Start a Family History Research

by Cassandra Cochrun
  • Overview

    Beginning to research your family tree can be both exciting and frustrating if you don't have the proper materials. It's important to stay organized when taking notes about your family and filing artifacts. When starting to research your family history, try to utilize as many of the services that are available to you as you possibly can.
  • Taking Notes

    You'll want to take notes on the things you already know about yourself and your family. To take effective notes, you'll need a clearly labeled notebook that is just for family history research. To stay very organized, you can buy several notebooks, one for each branch of your family tree, label them with the family's surname and take notes about family members from different branches of your family tree in different notebooks. You'll also need plenty of writing utensils so that you'll have one on hand when you need to jot something down. If you plan to interview older members of your family, you can go beyond taking notes with a pencil and paper. Tape recorders or video cameras are effective tools to use for interviews because you can go over the conversation at your own convenience.
 
  • Collecting Information

    You'll need at least one empty folder for storing photos, copies of government documents, letters, and newspaper clippings you collect during your research. Like the notebooks, you can buy several folders for each branch of the family, or you may choose to use file folders for each person you collect information on. To begin collecting information, you'll probably want to look through family Bibles, funeral programs, obituaries, wedding announcements and invitations and family registers for names, dates and relationships. If you're missing information after using these sources, you can use the National Archives for census information.
  • Using the Computer

    The computer is helpful when you're starting to research your family history. Sites like ellisisland.com provide free tools to help you, like pedigree charts to help you collect the information you need about yourself and your immediate family members to begin digging deeper into your family history. There are several websites that allow you to share information you've collected with others, as well as search surnames and find out information from others who have posted under that surname for a monthly fee. Software like Family Tree Maker and Roots Magic install on your hard drive and allow you to file your findings, including photos and documents you scan into your computer, inside the program. These programs help you stay organized and provide a backup to your hard copies of notes and artifacts.

    References & Resources