Are you new to genealogy?   
Revised 9 July 2010


A special note to new genetic genealogists: DNA testing does not replace traditional genealogical research.   
" . . . a theoretical relationship indicated by the DNA has no names and dates except those of the test subjects themselves. Everything else must be supplied by the documentary evidence . . . . What the DNA really provides is the encouragement to go looking for the documentation, or the opposite clue that there is no relationship after all." (John Chandler post to )

Tips for beginners:

1) You must start from the known (you) and work slowly, with proof, back to the next generations.

2) Here are links to two basic forms (these are pdf files) the pedigree/ancestor chart and the family group sheet .

3) Start reading the guide at
There are many sites with information for beginners. RootsWeb is free; it began on the early Internet before the Web existed and is populated by dedicated genealogy hobbyists willing to share information. For economic reasons it is now sponsored by the same company that owns However, while that company charges for most of its data, it has promised to keep RootsWeb data free to all.

4) Key information to a genealogist: names, dates, places, and relationships. Initially you'll be getting this information from your family records and relatives. As you learn more (for example, after reading the RootsWeb guide) you will know how to find new information.

5) If you have not already done so, join the RootsWeb mailing lists for the surnames you are researching. Yes, there are other lists and boards on the web but RootsWeb is the oldest and has the more experienced researchers. See

6) Learn how to search the list archives and post a message. When you post messages - called "queries" - on the net (or write letters to obtain information) be sure the subject of your message/query is descriptive. For example, "Lenhart" is too general and busy people won't read it. "George Lenhart, born about 1815, of York Co., PA" is better. Busy people will ignore a subject if it is too general but will read your message if the subject looks familiar or relates to an area of interest.

7) When you post to a message list or board include as much of this information as you have:

Full name (maiden name for females if you know it).
Dates - Birth? Marriage? Death?
Any locales for those events? State? County? City/Town?
Name of parents known?
Names of any known siblings?

For example:   Looking for information about the parents of George Lenhart, born about 1815, died 1884, of Dover, York Co., PA.  He married Elizabeth Gerber before 1844.  George may be the son of George and Margaret (Derr?) Lenhart of Dover.

Statements such as, "Looking for my great-great-great grandpa" are not helpful in a query

8) If possible, visit a Family History Center near you - these are associated with the LDS/Mormon church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). You don't have to be a member and they won't try and convert you. They will help you take the next step. Their volunteers range from new people to folks so experienced they are as good as professional researchers. In addition to their resources, most of the centers have online subscriptions to other information that you can access there for free (there is a small charge to order film records).  Do not underestimate this value of this resource. Visit their web site at - it has many resources including a list of all Family History Centers and a genealogy program (PAF) that you can download for free.

9) Record your information on family group sheets. Prepare a group sheet for every family member who has children. Or enter your information into a genealogy program and back it up often! You can download blank forms (see No. 2), order them by mail, or get them from an LDS Family History Center. Be sure to note your sources on your family group sheet - most beginners don't do this and regret it later!  Often you find conflicting information and you need to know the source to evaluate the accuracy of the information.

10) You cannot obtain all the information you need from the internet but you can get started there. As you surf the net (start with the links at RootsWeb) you'll discover many resources - some free - some require a subscription. You'll also find many family genealogies (for example on WorldConnect at RootsWeb). Some of the information you find may be reliable but much of it will be erroneous - use the information for clues but do not believe everything you see. As you learn more about genealogy (see No. 3) you will learn how to locate good sources and how to properly document your family history.

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