Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Jumpstart Your Family History in Ten Steps: Step Eight -- Start doing basic research

Once you have entered everything you know or can easily find out about your family, you may start asking what is next? Where do you go from here? If you have entered your family information into one of the large, online family history programs, you may have already gotten some hints concerning documents that might add addition information and in some cases, additional people to your burgening family tree. If you have exhausted all your record hints, the next step is to start doing your own research, that is, looking for documents that might provide more information about your ancestors and their family members.

If you were following my advice for the Seventh Step and you have evaluated the entries, you already have recorded and probably noticed some missing information or even some discrepancies. What you do next is largely determined by where your ancestral families lived or where events occurred in their lives. To help you decide what you want to try and find next, you can use a Record Selection Table. A good example of a Record Selection Table is located in the Research Wiki; see this link This particular table is focused on records in the United States and is designed to help you find the next type of record to search. If from looking at your records you have noticed a missing birth date or place. The Record Selection Table will suggest you might want to search Vital Records, Church Records or Family Bible Records. The Research Wiki can then assist you because each of the entries in the Table are linked to articles describing how to proceed to find information about that subject. The link for Vital Records takes you to the following page:

By studying the information on this page and all the pertinent links, you will know a lot about vital records and where to find them. This same page gives additional information about marriage and death records. If you continue to follow the links in the Research Wiki you will soon acquire enough information to begin actually searching for some records.

Another option is to go to The Family History Guide or website. Project 4: Discover will take you through a step-by-step approach to acquire essential research skills. This particular approach leans more towards traditional, i.e. paper-based, genealogy than it does today's computer driven research using primarily online resources.

If you are using one of the major online database programs to host your family tree, such as the Family Tree,, or, you will find that each individual in your family tree has a link that essentially allows you to search the records on that particular website. The Family Tree has links to search three other websites;, and

The idea of doing research involves asking questions such as "When was my Great-grandfather born?" Then, learning where records that can answer that question might be kept. Then searching the record for information about your ancestor. Here is an example of a search using the links on the family tree.

Let's suppose I was looking for the birth date of my Grandfather, Leroy Parkinson Tanner. Most beginning researchers would think they neeeded to start searching for a birth record or birth certificate. However, since I have been reading in the Research Wiki about "birth records" and since I suspect my Grandfather was born in Arizona, I look in the Research Wiki for information about Arizona birth records. Here is what I found.

So, now I click on this link and it takes me to the following page:

In order to find the birth date, I need to find a record that would have recorded his birth date. In this case, the types of records that I should search for are listed under the heading "Records that give birth information." If I have no idea or cannot estimate when he was born, I may have to search through a number of different sets or collections of records. But in this case, I remember that provided a record hint to a U.S. Census Record. Here is a copy of the Census record showing that Leroy Tanner was 45 years old in 1940. So he was probably born in about 1895.

Going back to the Research Wiki and looking at the time period that includes 1895, I come to the website for Arizona Genealogy Birth and Death Certificates or But my search does not produce a copy of the birth certificate, likely because birth certificates as noted on the Research Wiki page were not mandated until 1909.

Where else can I go to search? One of the options listed for finding birth information is in military records. Since Leroy Tanner was born in 1895, he would have had to register for the draft at the time of World War I. This is the kind on information that genealogists need to know but only comes through knowing some history and then associating historical events such as wars, with the dates of of events in our ancestors' lives.

I go to my part of the Family Tree on and click on a search in After sorting through the possible entries, I find a Draft Registration Card for Leroy giving his birth date of January 12, 1895. Here is a copy of both sides of the Draft Registration Card.

Finding more information may be just that simple or much more complicated. But now it is time to move onto the next step.

Here are the posts in this series.

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