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Baby Steps
 
 
OK!!!! So you have your PENCIL,CHARTS,FORMS & NOTES FROM RELATIVES. Now What....
 
Make sure you have addresses and/or phone numbers of relatives that don't live close so you can write them asking for info in a couple of weeks (collect questions for at least a week or two so you aren't mailing letters every other day to the same people).
 
First you start with the Contact Information Sheet. This should have the information you got from each person you talked to. Transfer this to a group sheet by putting the Husband & Wife at the top then their children. I find it easier to overlap these. By that I mean put gramdpa & grandma then their children, on a new sheet put their first child and his/her spouse and their children and so on. Do this for each child and each child of those people. Soon you will have many, many family groups almost filled out. Before you start to jump into the computer and find that missing aunt or uncle and their children, look for the information you are missing on those people you already have.  
 
Make sure to keep a piece of notebook paper with each group for added notes or personal comments about these families. A reference paper.
 
Depending on what you are missing, you can start your search accordingly. For example, say you have the names of you great grandparents but not a death date. You know what state they lived/died in but not the county. If you know the city, you can most likely find an obituary from the local paper on them or even better look for cemeteries. Cemeteries are a great place to find your past relatives. Usually you will find several of them in the same place. Cemeteries can be accesses by state through Cindy's List.com, Rootsweb.com, Ancestry.com, Genealogy.com. These are all great reference places to start.
 
So you have no idea where they lived ha? Now what? Well that is ok too. Look them up in the Social Security Death Index(SSDI) this can tell you death dates and place of last residence, where the SSN was issued, and in many cases a birth date. Which in turn tells you where they lived in their earlier years, usually as young adults. A hundred years ago when people lived and worked on farms, their children worked with them, therefore they didn't get SSN's until adults. Females usually are listed on the SSDI under their married names not maiden names.  
 
Finding a grave site is good when there are more than one or two people listed with the same last names. MAKE A NOTE OF ALL OF THEM even if you don't know who they are. Most likely they are all related, you just don't know it yet.
 
Through those sites mentioned above, you can also look up marriages and births. Another great site for getting information is familysearch.org, this is an LDS site which seems to have more information than anyone ever wants or needs, but not all information is acurate so beware! This is however a great place to get an idea of what children belonged to each set of parents and usually an idea of their birth, christening and/or marriages and places like counties and states. These facts should always be double checked by you, but they can give a new start on other family members you didn't know you had. Sometimes at some sites you can even email the submitter of these documents to find out how they got the information first off. Who knows...they might even be related...second,third or even fourth cousins.  
 
Check out My Favorites Page for links to those and many more sites.
 
If you get stuck or lost at any time, just drop me a note and I'd be happy to give you answers and options.
 
If you keep repeating the above steps, you should be well on your way to finding your tree. If you know that you relatives lives in two or tree different places, but don't know when, go for a census of each area. This will at least tell you the head of houshold and how many males over age 16 and under 16 as well as females. So if they had 12 or 15 children(yes that was commen in the 1800's), you'll know how many were alive or born before they moved to the next place. People generally didn't move around alot though.  
 
You can order birth records from states for exact birth dates and parents names, usually you can find out mothers maiden names also. For example in Iowa this would cost you about $10 and in Idaho it is something like $4 I think. Generally you can order these for under $15 in any state. I wouldn't order them unless you just plain want them or after a year, you still can't find the information. Ordering to many of them can add up fast!
 
Queries are also a great place to start. Put you questions out on every message board you can find. This is how I started. People would email me that already had a few more names than me and it can really give your searching new life. Chances are, someone already has started doing your family or someone that married into your family and they have information that is valuable to you. PLEASE be receptive to those that contact you, most researchers are extremely helpful and wonderful people. Many times you will find someone that has information they will send you without asking anything in return. When you read the message boards, I hope you offer the same information to others. Just because you only know about your family and grandparents, doesn't mean you can't help someone twice removed that is looking for those names. Usually, they know that your grandparents had 2 children but didn't know there are also 3 more, or who they married and so on.
 
The genealogy community is very giving. If we give back we can all benefit greatly! Enjoy your travels through the past and let me know how you are doing. I love hearing from people to know how far they have come. Happy Hunting!