Family history research involves finding names, locations, dates and stories, beginning with you and working back through time. The best way to proceed is, as the popular saying in genealogy goes: Start with what you know.
Start with yourself, your father, and your mother. Gather together the information you have, such as names, dates/places of birth and/or death, and dates/places of marriage. Place the information that you have on an ancestry chart.
Search your own records—talk to other family members, review deeds, look at Bibles, scrapbooks and photo albums, etc. Who are the "keepers" in the family? See what information you can find about your family before heading to the Library or going online. Remember that while many records that assist researchers with family history are online, many others are only available in a variety of formats at libraries, including MNHS's Gale Family Library.
After collecting and recording the information you already know, your next step is to make as list of what you want to find out.
For each person you want to research, ask yourself what information do you need? Make a list for each person.
For example, you want to find out where Grandpa was born. You know he was 90 when he died in 1976.
You need to determine:
Some tips for making your visit efficient and productive:
Determine the kind of record you need and the authority that created it.
|If you need:||Look for:|
|birth||birth or death records, christening records, cemetery transcriptions and records, parents' church records, family Bibles, letters, censuses, obituaries|
|death||death certificates, burial records, cemetery transcriptions and records, church records, family Bibles, letters, census mortality schedules, Social Security Death Index|
|marriage||county records, family Bibles, letters, church records, wedding photos|
|naturalization & immigration||naturalization records from courts (local, county, state, and federal), census records|
|locations & addresses||census records, city directories, historical maps|
|adoption||district court civil case files, district court judgment books, orphanage and institutional records, birth records|
|divorce||district court civil case files, district court judgment books|
|wills & probate||probate court case files, probate court registers of actions, county will books|
|military||adjutant generals reports, muster rolls, service record cards, draft registration lists, veterans grave reports, bonus records|
|land ownership||plat maps, deeds, county property tax and assessment rolls, allotment records, homestead records|
Evaluate what you found. What clues for further research have you found? In some instances you may need to consult several resources to locate the piece of information that you are seeking. Check various spellings of the name you are researching since that can change over time.