As the editor of a genealogy newsletter, creator of this web site, and family researcher for the last 10 years, I am frequently asked HOW to start tracing family trees.  I feel I am at least qualified to give the following advice:

  1. Notice how I said 10 EASY steps?  Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.  If you want to do a good job, then go in to it with "doing a good job" in mind and forget "Easy".
  2. Be Selfish.  Start with yourself.  You know (or hopefully you do!) when and where you were born, who your spouse is, and when you were married.  Think of this as your universe and you're the center of it!
  3. Next, list your children and their information.  If you want to include a little note as to why you were living in Maryland when Mary was born and Georgia when George was born, go ahead.  There is no "Best" way to write your family's history.  These are those little details about YOUR family that your cousins just won't know.  You may even need to call the kids--you'd be surprised how many folks out there don't remember their daughter-in-law's maiden name.
  4. Now you can think of certificates--do you have a copy of your own birth certificate?  Where exactly did you put that marriage certificate?  A key to good genealogy is organization.  I keep all my certificates in a three-ring binder with sheet protectors.  If you don't have your certificate, then the easiest way to get it is either go down to the courthouse (if you live in your hometown) or write to the courthouse for it.  And how do you get their address?  There are several ways:  call directory assistance and call (ask how much while you've got them on the line); look it up at the library's reference desk--people will be happy to assist you--it's their job; search on the internet--several counties have their info now on line.
  5. Now you've got the certificate, take a good look at it.  It is a primary source and after a couple of generations, those sources run out quick.  Your birth certificate will list who your parents were, when and where you were born, etc.  Well, your parents' birth certificates will list the same information and their parents' will list some basic information, too.  You'd be surprised at the wide range of information you can gather off those birth, marriage, and death certificates.  Sometimes you luck out and find a marriage application, which will list more than the certificate itself.  But what if you don't know where your parents were born to write for theirs?  Or what if their births weren't recorded?  Don't worry…..