Genealogy searches should be started in the present and worked backwards through time. Acquire as much information as possible about and from all living relatives: parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins, nieces and nephews, etc. Close friends of the family may also know some of the family stories.
This information can be used to start ancestor charts and family group sheets and to show where more information needs to be obtained.
Needed kinds of information include:
- Full birth names of each member of the family, including variant spellings of given, middle, and family names, and changes in given and surname between birth and death.
- Full names of each individual’s parents (and grandparents, if known), with both married and maiden names for each woman.
- Exact birth date for each individual.
- Birthplace for each individual; if possible, the specific city, town, or county. If the individual was not born in the United States, this information becomes even more necessary.
- Exact date of marriage for individuals who married.
- Location of marriage for each couple, both the civil jurisdiction and the denomination and name of the church, if the marriage occurred in a church. (Religious affiliation for each individual is extremely useful if the approximate but not exact location of marriage is known.) Keep in mind that many individuals remarry after the death of or divorce from a spouse.
- Date and location of civil divorces (and, if appropriate, church annulments).
- Date of death for each individual, including infant and child deaths. The cause of death is useful but death certificates are much better than family information for this item.
- Location of burial for each individual (that is, the cemetery). Cremations are extremely rare before the current generation.
- For individuals not born in the U.S., the date of immigration. The date of naturalization is less useful.