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African American Family History Research: Getting Started

Getting Started

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 marriagePlace the information that you have on a pedigree 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 which 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.

Using a Pedigree Chart

A basic family history chart will look something like the one below. A "family group record" brings together the parents and siblings in a particular family on one sheet. Pre-printed charts can be purchased, and most family history software will print charts as well.

pedigree chart

Getting Started Links

Gale Family Library • Minnesota Historical Society • 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55102-1906 • 651-259-3300
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