What is a Genealogy?
Genealogy is the study of family lineage and
histories, and frequently involves searching for lost records or
information on distant, deceased or long-lost family members. Many
families may designate a family historian to conduct genealogy
research on the familyís behalf, or someone may want to conduct
research because they were adopted or need to know about health
issues that run in the family.
Records Assisting in Genealogy Research
Vital records maintained with the local court
clerk or Department of Health office include birth, death, marriage
and divorce records are often good starting points when searching
for genealogy records. These locally-maintained records can provide
names, maiden names, aliases, children, addresses, property owned,
marriages and divorces that involve your family members.
National Archives also provides census records, military records,
immigration records, naturalization and land records.
These records are helpful if you are a descendant of immigrants and
want to know where your family originated, or if you have no idea
where to begin or where your family might have been located. Such is
the case if you are adopted and/or your only known family members
are deceased or otherwise unreachable.
Information Needed to Begin Genealogy Research
Before searching for genealogy information, you
need to gather as much information from currently living family
members as possible. Dates of birth or marriage, places of residence
and names of children will all help you along the way and give you
at least some place to start.
Since there is no national public database
providing all the records youíll need, itís generally best to
utilize the services of a private search engine. These services
provide the advantage of multiple databases searched simultaneously
to save you both time and energy in the process.
What are Vital Records?
Vital records are considered those which are
created with every vital event during an individualís lifetime.
These include birth, death, marriage and divorce records, and are
created and maintained with the corresponding local government
offices. Frequently, vital records are requested during genealogy
research or to verify someoneís identity.
Types of Vital Records and the Information
Contained in Them
Birth records include official certificates of
birth created by the local Department of Health, and offer the place
and date of birth and parentsí names. Each county maintains these
records, and copies of them frequently may only be requested by
parents, children or the individual themselves. General information
such as the date of birth may be accessible by the public.
Death records are also maintained at the county
level, and include an official death certificate that family members
may need to claim insurance benefits. The date and cause of death,
results of any autopsies performed, place of burial and any aliases
are frequently maintained in complete death records. Family members
or legal representatives, or those armed with a court order will be
able to access all of this information; outsiders may only view the
date of death recorded.
Marriage and divorce records are essential
vital records when trying to prove someoneís identity or trace
family membersí movements. If you have a court date to argue child
or spousal support, you may need to bring official copies of your
divorce decree to confirm the final arrangements of the divorce.
Requesting Vital Records
In order to gain access to vital records, you
will most likely need to submit a written request to the
corresponding government offices, pay a fee and provide proof of
your identity. Private sites can conduct searches for you as well,
saving time and effort in the process.
Creating A Family Tree Online
There are infinite resources available online for creating and
maintaining family trees. You may be able to access family tree
charts for download, indexes of CDs available at your state
historical society, or simply information to input into your family
Wherever you retrieve your family tree chart from it will be
important to keep in mind what information you will need to complete
the chart, where to get that information, and how to cite it for
Where Can I Create a Family Tree Online?
There are many family tree makers available online for download.
These charts are often in .pdf form and can be downloaded at your
convenience to use to document your family history.
Free .pdf downloads are available online, or you may also check out
the Surgeon Generalís health initiative and complete a
health portrait chart.
You may also want to contact your local or state historical society.
Frequently they will provide family tree charts on their websites,
for sale, or in paper at their location. The
National Archives website has
information on contacting your states historical society.
Where Can I Get CDs for Making My Family Tree?
In addition to family tree resources available for download online,
there are also programs that can be used to complete family trees.
In some cases you may wish to purchase the programs available.
These programs are designed for easy access and completion at home
on your computer.
Some of these programs may also be available for use at your state
historical society. The National Archives has a list of CD-ROMS
available in the
Archive Library Information Center.
What Information Do I Need for My Family Tree?
Whether you are getting your family tree online, on CD, or creating
your own there are some key pieces of information you will require
to fill out the forms.
You should first compile a list of names of your relatives. Go back
as far as you know, and enlist the help of other relatives. You will
need these names for future research you will conduct on them.
After compiling their names take note of important dates in their
lives. Dates like birth, death, and marriage will help you to piece
together the course of their lives. You can also take note of
immigration, naturalization, baptism, and other major events.
If you canít draw a complete picture of your ancestorsí lives then
you will need to conduct more research. There are many resources
available for researching your family history.
You can go to your local historical society and ask to see microfilm
slides relating to your ancestors. Most states will also have a
website available listing the indexes of microfilm they have.
You can also visit the
National Archives. They have
uploaded a few records to their website and are ready to assist you
in finding microfilm to view.
After using the many resources available to you to compile a history
of your ancestors you may fill out family trees in any of the
locations discussed previously. These family trees will help you
keep track of your ancestors and conduct more research in the