Standard Pedigree Chart
Family Group Record
As easy as it sounds, when you are beginning a search of your roots, you will need to start at the beginning! YOU are the beginning. Start with yourself. Put your name, birth date and birth place in the #1 position on a standard pedigree chart.
That was easy, right?
STEP ONE: Identify what you already know.
The pedigree chart is a most basic prerequisite in identifying your ancestors. There are hundreds of online genealogy websites with genealogy forms you can print or download.
Likewise, there are several good computer software programs to help you organize your records. Family Search has a free download of Personal Ancestral File (PAF). It is fairly user friendly, but since I've used it for twenty plus years, I'm biased. I've also used RootsMagic, but I find it takes more time to input information.
Now that you've got the pedigree started, continue by adding information about your parents. Your father's name goes in #2 spot and mother's name in #3. Add their birth dates, birth places, marriage date, and death date/place, if applicable. Continue by filling in the names of your grandparents, if known.
Family Group Record
The next form you'll need is the Family Group Record (FGR) sheet. This sheet keeps track of each family. The husband's data is filled out first, then the wife's information with a list of each child, including birth, marriage and death information. Fill out one of these records with your parents as husband and wife and YOU as one of the children. Include all your siblings (brothers and sisters) in order of birth.
If you are married with children, fill out a FGR with YOU as the husband or wife. Then list your spouse and your children with their birth, marriage, death information.
HINT 1: Dates. Most genealogy programs record dates with the European method. Day first, month, then year (i.e. 2 Feb 2009). Use the three letter abbreviation of the month, but always write the complete year--not '09.
HINT 2: Places. Write places in order from smallest place (town), larger place (county), next larger place (state), largest place (country).
HINT 3: Names. Always list females by their MAIDEN name.
Congratulations! You're on your way. You will notice a pattern emerging.
In genealogy, there are three main life events which help to identify an individual as unique. BMD. That's birth, marriage and death--with dates and places for each event. Those things, plus the parents' and spouse names, make each individual who have lived distinct.
Those are the basics. Do it right in the beginning and you won't have to do it again!
STEP TWO: COLLECT. Start digging through drawers, closets, boxes in the attic. Collect certificates--birth or baptism, marriage, death--of course, these are important, but also collect photos, letters, news clipping, obituaries, diaries--anything with information about you and your family.
Ask relatives for help. They may have treasures long forgotten. Make copies of whatever they have.
If you find new BMD data in the collected items, be sure to add the information to your pedigree and FGR.
STEP THREE: ORGANIZATION. You need to organize what you've collected, so you can find it again. (So what else is new?)
The method is up to you. You can file papers in file folder or three ring binders. I like to put certificates and fragile letters in Archival quality polypropylene protector sheets.
Put like items together (all birth certificates) and arrange by specific families.
You are now on the road to learning more about what makes YOU you. It is a gratifying, satisfying pastime. But beware. Once bitten by the bug, it will be a passion you can't shake.
GOOD LUCK with your quest.