Getting Started in Genealogy Research Graphic

Guest poster Diana Elder, author of Research like a Pro: A Genealogist’s Guide, shares some great starting points for genealogy research.

Diana Elder Genealogist Author Are you ready to get started researching your family’s history? Does it sound too difficult? Try these five steps to get started.

1. Start close to home.

Begin with looking at your family tree. Do you have any questions about your parents or grandparent’s lives? Is there a family story/myth that you’d like to discover the truth about? Ask older family members what they remember. Take good notes of your questions.

2. Choose a specific research question.

Look through your list of questions. Choose one to start your journey of discovery, preferably a generation or two back where records will be available. In some states the more recent records may be more difficult to access because of privacy issues.

3. Learn about the location where your ancestor lived.

The FamilySearch Research Wiki is an excellent place to learn what kind of records are available in any county, state, or country. Pay attention to the history and discover what might have been happening when your ancestor was alive. Look at maps to see the lay of the land.

4. Make a research plan that will help you solve your mystery.

Are you looking for birth information? You could plan to search the census records to find your ancestor’s approximate birth year and place. Did the state issue birth certificates? Was there a church record? Does the ancestor’s death certificate list a birth date. If you don’t know what records to search, try the FamilySearch Research Wiki article: “United States Record Finder.”

5. Follow your plan and search the records.

Keep track in a research notebook where you looked and what you found. Keep notes of the specific details so you can return to the record again.

When finished, you may have found the answer to your question, or you may have learned that you need to search in a different place. Start the process over, learn about the records in the new location and create a new research plan. As you build your family tree add the new information to your online family tree or your database.

You’re on your way to discovering the story of your family!

About the Author

research like a pro book coverDiana Elder AGⓇ is a professional genealogist, author, and speaker. She is accredited in the Gulf South region of the United States through the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen). Diana graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Elementary Education and has turned her passion for teaching to educating teens and adults in proven genealogy research techniques. Diana is the author of the Research like a Pro: A Genealogist’s Guide and creator of the “Research Like a Pro” study group and eCourse. She writes articles for, the genealogy website created by her daughter, Nicole Dyer. She presents regularly at genealogy conferences, sharing the methods she uses every day to solve challenging genealogical problems.




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