South Bay Cities Genealogical Society

Promoting Genealogical Education and Research in Southern California's South Bay

So How Do I Start?

So how do you start? That can be the hardest part. Writers are well known for making excuses about why they can't start their project, but it happens to all people for all kinds of tasks. Genealogy is no different. So here are some simple tips that you might find useful to get yourself started on the path.

Most importantly, remember that there are plenty of resources, including SBCGS, ready to help you when you get stuck.

Begin with yourself, then move on to your living relatives.
You probably know the most about you, so start there. The next step is to talk with your living relatives, as they will have access to the documents you need to verify things, as well as being able to tell you tales of that night your grandparents went skinny-dipping down at the mill pond.
Record all information, but don't accept anything until you prove it.
This is a very important rule. After you've looked over these tips, check out the article What Is Proof? for more detail.
Work you way backwards through time.
It is almost impossible to "pick an ancestor" and work forward to you. Going forward is really useful only for recording family branches from a common ancestor.
Use simple paper charts and forms to save information, at first.
While this is becoming less important with the advent of graphical software, tablets, battery-operated scanners and a cell-phone with a camera in everyone's pocket, there is still some value in the tip as paper forms require no batteries, and will not suddenly stop operating when you are recording that last entry at the library. In any case, do not rely on your memory.
Get a genealogy software program.
Some are free and most are inexpensive. Be sure to back up your information so you don't lose it through accident.
Be sure to record the source from which you get the info, with enough detail that you can find it again.
You may be additional information in the source that you forgot to collect (or more likely, didn't know you needed) so going back is useful. Even more important is to know that there will be conflicts as you go and you will need to understand where the information was collected. This is very important, even if you don't think so now.
Join SBCGS and/or other local genealogy societies
Don't just join, also attend their meetings and training classes. (Misery loves company!) Remember to ask questions when your there, and strike up friendships with people who may be researching similar lines — you never know when your researches will cross with another.
Visit a local Family History Center.
These are part of the LDS (Church of Latter Day Saints), but you needn't be a member to use them. You will also find that many commercial Internet resources can be accessed here for no cost to you.
Sign up for genealogy classes at local adult schools.
Nothing beats an education for, uh, learning.
Subscribe to genealogy magazines or online blogs.
While some blogs may require a subscription, most are free to everyone. Even for free blogs you may need to sign up. Some blogs also support RSS feeds to bring you the latest blog entries automatically. There are there are many free RSS readers, and some browsers even support basic RSS reading.
Use the many online resources that are available.
A small subset of these resources can be found elsewhere on the SBCGS website. Check our Research for links to on-line resouces from other web sites that may be of interest, and our member links for personal sites managed by our members.
Don't let complications get in the way.
You can read that old German script even if you don't speak German. There are records for African-American and Jewish research. The hometown in the old country can be found.
Finally, don't give up.
The further back in time you go, the more time your research will take. But it worth it!

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