1. Begin with yourself. Organize your knowledge. Fill out a five-generation ancestral chart and a family group sheet for each ancestral couple. Organize and study any family papers you have.


2. Talk about your project with your relatives. They may know information about your ancestors that you don’t know.


3. Begin your census research with the 1940 census and work your way backwards. Find all members of the extended family for a complete picture of the family. The more you know about the whole family, the easier it will be to work yourself around “brick walls.”


4. Use the clues you find in one record to help you locate other records. For example, the 1920 census might indicate your immigrant ancestor arrived in the U.S. in 1901 and naturalized in 1907. Those are good clues–but don’t expect them to be 100% accurate.


5. Census, military service, military pension, immigration, naturalization, and land records are some of the most useful Federal Records for genealogical research. Other Federal records may be useful to you depending on what relationships your ancestors had with various federal agencies. Read more on the National Archives website, www.archives.gov/research/genealogy/index.html


6. Birth and death records have been kept by state bureaus of vital statistics since “about” 1900. (The year that state registration began varies by state.) Contact the state archives or appropriate state agency. Birth and death records before 1900 may have been kept at county records offices.


7. Marriage, divorce, land, mortgage, tax, voter registration, and other records were kept by county records offices. Contact the appropriate office or state or county archives.


8. Libraries have local history and genealogy collections. You’ll find published records of all types, compiled genealogies, and local newspapers on microfilm.


9. Learn… then learn more…. Read books and online articles on how to do genealogical research. Join genealogical societies (national, state, and local, both where you live and where your ancestors lived). Attend your local genealogy society meetings and classes.


10. The name may not be spelled in various records as you expect it to be spelled. Be flexible. For example, Hayford might be Heyford, Hafford, Haford, Hefford, Heford, and so forth. Remember that immigrants’ first names may be in their native language, for example: John might be Jan, Ivan, Iwan, Johannes, Johann, and so forth, depending on his native language–or the native language of the person creating the record.


11. Many people had the same or similar names so don’t assume that the person is your ancestor. Distinguish between same-named people based on all the clues from all the records you find. Does it make sense? If your ancestor “always” lived in Baltimore, he probably didn’t become naturalized in Nebraska….


originally compiled by Claire Kluskens (2014)