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Genealogy: Getting Started


Whether you are researching a historical figure or your own family, this information should help you get started. 

We have made an effort to verify that all websites mentioned are still correctly listed.

The resources found on this site were originally created by Joyce Hicks of the Auburn University Libraries.

Special Collections & Archives


RBD Library

231 Mell Street

Auburn, AL 36849



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Getting Started

Identify what you know about your family.

  • Gather information about family members by using family Bibles, journals, letters, newspapers, obituaries and ask relatives.
  • Write what you know about your ancestors on a pedigree chart. Start with yourself as # 1.
  • Write "surname" in all caps.
  • List the dates: i.e. (08 Mar 1895) instead of 3/8/1895.
  • Write places in order: City/Township/County/State

Decide what you need to learn.

  • Born?
  • Place?
  • Married?
  • Place?
  • Died?
  • Place?

Pick one of your ancestors and try to identify needed information (document pertinent information on other relatives as you find it).

Select records to search.

  • There are two types of genealogical records.
  • Compiled Records: These records have already been researched by others, such as biographies, family histories.
  • Original Records: Records that were created at or near the time of an event, such as; birth, marriage, death or census records.
  • Be sure to check computer resources that are available.
    4. Obtain & search record:
    • Many local libraries have good genealogical materials, especially for the surrounding areas of the library's location. Check Family History Centers, they are an excellent place to obtain records.
    • Look at a broad time period. Check for spelling variations, write down your results, document your source, even if you come up empty-handed (it will keep you from checking the same source again).
      5. Use your information.
    • Evaluate what you've found. Did you find the information that you were looking for? Is that information complete?
    • Copy the information to family group sheets and pedigree charts.
    • Organize the information. Use a system that works for you, i.e.: cards, notebooks, or computer.
    • Share your information with interested family members.