Author Tammy Tipler-Priolo copyright 2006
Let us begin with first things first. I recommend that you start with yourself and work backwards; you might be thinking at this point why? Well if you start with yourself first, you will have a less likely chance of getting lost and completely off track with your family history, not a nice place to be thirty years from now and several dollars later.
To help you manage all this information on yourself and ultimately your ancestors, I recommend starting with a pedigree chart first. Not familiar with a pedigree chart, just type in Pedigree Chart in your search engine and you will find loads of examples of one. Another name for a pedigree chart is a family tree chart.
A pedigree chart is a chart that is either vertical or horizontal. Both start with person number one, which would be yourself. Next, it directs you to person number two, which would be your father and person number three would be your mother (note when asked for female names always put their maiden name down). Thus, a pattern begins to show up. Person number four would be your paternal grandfather and person number five would be your paternal grandmother, while person number six and seven would be your maternal grandfather & grandmother respectively.
At this point, don’t worry that you are not able to fill the chart completely in. The point of the chart is to help you figure out what is still missing and to then create a research plan. What is important, is filling out the chart with your information first. Fill in your complete name. Make a note of any nicknames as well. Fill in all the information regarding specific events such as date of events (birth, christening, marriage) & places of events. Do this for your father, mother, grandparents and great grandparents until you have the chart filled out with all the information you personally know about you and your ancestors. (Note when writing out dates it is recommended to start with the day as a number, then the month written out and then full year (i.e. 19 Oct 1919 so a distinction can be made between the numbers).
Next check off each record you already have. Start with the most recent event in your life and work backwards. Perhaps you are already married, then you would want to have your full marriage certificate that states your name, who you married, where you were married, when you were married and who your parents were. Next, you would want to locate your christening record or full birth record that states your name, when & where you were christened/born and the names of your parents. Once these links with your parents are located you can begin with either parent and search for their records starting with their death record if they have passed on or their marriage record if they were married, followed by their christening/birth record, so a link can be created to their parents.
Ah…are you starting to see a pattern? Yes the goal of working with a pedigree chart and starting with yourself and working backwards is to take stock of what records you already have and what still needs to be located in order to create those links from one generation to the next without ending up in the wrong family lines. You want to use your pedigree chart as a map to aid you in developing a sound, well thought out research plan. You want to collect as many records as possible to help prove the correct links from generation to generation; thus, setting a goal of trying to locate three records to prove one link if possible.
I have presented you with a methodical plan of action to begin tracking down your ancestors. These recommendations will come in handy when you must approach a library, records office, archives or professional genealogist. There is no guarantee of finding specific records, but if you follow my recommendations, you will be on your way to a success search.