For me, genealogy is the finding of information on the three critical events in the life of an ancestor; birth, marriage and death. These genealogical events have been recorded well into the past. Then for me, family history is the adding of what happened between the birth and death of the ancestor. Pictures are great for family history especially if they are labeled with when, where and who. Genealogy is the structure and family history is the detail.
- Start collecting information from your living relatives as early in your life as possible, even if you just store the information. After a relative has passed the information is at least harder to obtain and may be lost.
- Use either forms or a computer program to record your information.
- Work from the known (present) and search to the unknown (past).
- Begin in your own home looking for your genealogical events. Your full birth certificate will give you the tie to yours parents and a marriage certificate ties you to your spouse and their parents. Children's birth certificates give the ties to your descendants. You can easily start gathering family history on yourself.
- Your parents and siblings are next. Get copies of their genealogical certificates. While they are around, start filling the family history.
- Now it is time for the grand parents, get the information before they are gone. Look for that great aunt (uncle) that knows everything. But take into consideration that the memories of the elderly may be inaccurate so you need to verify what you find.
- Once you have obtained all you can from the living relatives then you go to civil registration (content depends where and when the information was registered). The death certificate may give parents names, but can also contain cause, place, when and age (leads to birth). The birth certificate should have parents, where and when. This information can give you some idea for the marriage certificate which has when and where but may have age and parents. Now you have information to go to the next generation, continue until the beginning of civil registration for that area.
- Census records are a gold mine containing family structure information at that time. It gives location, relationships, gender, age, and other information depending on the area and year of the census.
- If your ancestors moved from one country to another then you have passenger lists and immigration records.
- Beyond civil registration you go to religious records.
- Obtain copies of the documentation for every bit of information, that you can.
- Books on area genealogy and history will help you with your family history. Check the library first.
- Maps can help (even modern ones). Once you get to religious records, you may only have a name and location to find the best choice for an ancestor. Movement of the family over generations may not be over 30 kilometers (a day's travel) so your ancestor most likely be the person of the right name and year and the closest to the descendants.
- The internet, a gold mine or the famous garden path? Look for images of the original records and sources you can check. You do not have to be a professional or even honest to put things on the internet. Watch out for someone else's garden path. Verify everything you copy from the internet (not necessary for the original record images). One way to look at the information is that it could be a guide to your answers.
- Get a free email account. Emails really speed up the research. Social sites like Facebook can help you with questions and a place to post queries.
- Look for area genealogical societies for places that your ancestor lived.