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Patrick's Fanily History Pages

How To Trace Your Family History

[How-To Guides] [Family History Centers] [Online Genealogy]

First, remember that although the Internet is a priceless asset to the genealogist, genealogy is going to require you to get offline sometimes. Genealogists love the Internet. But some of us are sloppier or less informed than others, and you can't take everything you find at face value. You need to get into the courthouses, the archives, the cemeteries. You need to go see the farms and towns where your ancestors lived. Genealogy comes alive when you begin to understand your ancestors as people. You don't just want a list of names and dates, do you? That's incredibly boring. Make your search worthwhile by trying to understand the lives they lived, the choices they faced, the decisions they made, their joys and their sorrows.

How-To Guides:

The first book I ever read on genealogy was Searching For Your Ancestors, by Gilbert H. Doane. I recommend you read this book. It may not address some specific issues you'll deal with in your own particular search, but it will give you a good basic understanding of and appreciation for genealogy. Every good library has a copy of it. It's also still in print, updated by James B. Bell. (Mr. Doane has gone to join his ancestors.) If you buy books online, you can get it from or Barnes & Noble. Better yet, support your local bookseller. The big corporations have driven lots of independent bookstores out of business, but if you're lucky, you may still have a good local bookstore like The Happy Bookseller. Try to do business with establishments like that; when they go out of business, we all lose. And remember: if they don't have it, they can get it -- probably faster than you can get it online.

There are also lots of resources online to help you. These are my picks:

  • Check out the resources at ROOTS-L Resources: Info and Tips for Beginning Genealogy. Lots of good advice.
  • US GenWeb offers free online courses in genealogy; check them out.
  • I especially recommend the free lessons offered by
  • Desmond Walls Allen and Carolyn Earle Billingsley offer a free online Beginner's Guide to Family History Research that's well worth reading.
  • offers excellent free lessons for beginners and more experienced researchers.
  • Family History Centers:

  • The LDS Church encourages its members to do genealogy for religious reasons. Basically, they perform their temple ordinances on behalf of the deceased. It may be disconcerting the first time you find that one of your ancestors has been posthumously "baptized" in a Mormon temple, but the Mormons will give you a tremendous amount of help in your research. The have an unbelievable collection of records. Their family history centers are open to all, not just to Mormons, and they rarely if ever proselytize among genealogy researchers. (Some of the volunteers aren't even Mormons.) Check out Family History Centers and Library, from RootsWeb, and also see The Largest Collection In The World, from Treasure Maps. To find the Family History Center nearest you, see Where Is the Nearest Family History Center? or call a nearby LDS church. Look in the White Pages under Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
  • Online Genealogy:

    If you're reading this, you'll probably be doing some of your research online. To learn more about online genealogy, check out these sites:

  • The Internet & Webbing Your Family History, from the Harper County Genealogical Society.
  • Handy Online Staring Points from Cyndi's List. If you're going to do online genealogy, you're really going to appreciate Cyndi Howells. She's basically given up her own research to devote herself full time to Cyndi's List, the ultimate genealogy links page. She's also written a popular book, Netting Your Ancestors, about online genealogy.
  • Last, but certainly not least, check out Practical Genealogy Research: Making the Internet Work for You, from Joe's Genealogy.
  • Go back to North Carolina USGenWeb: Mitchell County.

    Go back to Patrick's Family History Pages.