Genealogical research, like any other kind of research, involves a cycle of 5 basic steps:
- What do I already know?
- What specific question needs to be answered?
- What information sources might answer my question?
- What do the information sources actually tell me?
- What conclusions can I reach now?
Step 1: What do I already know?
The first step in doing genealogical research is to identify what information you already know to be true. This information generally comes from your own experience or from documents already in your possession.
Because human memory is fallible, it is important for you to keep permanent records of the information already known to you. For many years, genealogists have recorded information using printed forms such as pedigree charts and family group sheets. (These forms are explained in detail later). Today, it is becoming increasingly common for genealogists to record their information into databases on their personal computers, and then print out pedigree charts and family group sheets as needed. Therefore, you may wish to begin by obtaining and installing genealogy software for your home computer, and then recording the information already in your possession. Don't forget the importance of backing up your information!
Even if you store your genealogical research in a computer database, you will usually want to print out copies for your files. This means that you'll need to organize a filing system to keep track of what you already know and what you are working on. You may want to create a separate file folder for each surname in your family, and then file these alphabetically in a filing cabinet.