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Beginners First Step is as Easy as 1-2-3!

This is a   condensed outline  of this article with links to the details that follow.


ONE. The first goal is to take care of the critical steps while there is still time to do so.

  • Don’t rush to collect names until the “perishable” things are collected and protected.

  • Capture relatives' memories before they are forgotten or gone.

  • Ask questions; record or videotape the answers if possible.

  • Remember, the only dumb question is the one that was never asked.

  • Preserve originals or copies of all the old photographs and documents. Identify those pictured in photographs while living relatives can still do so.

  • Organize the valuables in at least two distinct formats and two separate locations.

  • Retain paper copies and properly store the originals.

  • Digitize for the future (keep your storage media up-to-date too).


TWO. Examine your choices and decide on your goals (use small manageable steps).

  • Is this a pastime, hobby, a passion, a calling, a vocation, a career, or a legacy

  • Start slowly to build confidence.

  • Build a cooperative network to share data and activities.

  • Do not get overwhelmed and buried in an avalanche of paperwork (organize as you go).

  • Tell a story based on the data (the life of your favorite relative).

  • Share your results with others (Start a webpage or blog).

  • Keep a research log to record clues and theories you want to prove.

  • Constantly re-adjust your course in light of new data that is discovered.

  • Safeguard your results for posterity.

  • Create backups for both the physical documents and the digital data.

  • Keep your storage media up-to-date so you can always access the data.

  • Feed your information into a “world tree” program for the future generations.

  • Continue to expand your genealogical education as your interest grows.


THREE. Always re-evaluate and re-adjust your goals and research objectives.

  • Rethink your objectives and pace yourself for the long haul

    (there is no hurry to finish a project that has no end).

  • Don’t just stare at the inevitable brick wall, just take a step back and think.

  • Try to side-step it by following other nearby family lines.

  • Look for neighbors and nearby relatives in the census records.

  • Double check your research and previous conclusions.

  • Let it go for now as new online data will eventually be available

  • After exhausting the on-line resources, "hit the ground running" by utilizing the Research Wiki for off-line resources.

  • Study migration patterns for clues to missing relatives or to help build your storyline.

  • Let your interests and experience guide where your journey is to go next.

Genealogy Research Tips. Pat Cummins of the Genealogy Committee of the St. Andrew's Society of Washington, D.C., offers his suggestions for research, software, and online services. 

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