Genealogy for Beginners

Where to start?

Start with yourself and work backwards

  • Record what you already know about yourself and your family
  • Organize, sort, separate (newspapers, photographs, textiles, papers)
  • Contact other family members
  • Keep track of what you have searched and whom you have contacted. Examples:  research journalcorrespondence log
  • Document everything
  • Then, do something with all this research: write it up; publish it; pass it on


Focus on

  • One person, one family branch, one event (one type of source)
  • What sources (primary records or compilations) might help you find information on your focus?
  • Find the sources (online? field visits? letters?)
  • Examine the sources
  • Copy the original source
  • Record the essential information from the source
  • Examine more sources
  • Document everything

Select a New Focus. Repeat.

Getting Organized

Decide how you will organize your information.


Notebooks or file folders?

Genealogical Software?

Paper Forms

Paper forms can be useful in recording data and in interpreting information in original sources. These are excellent resources for finding paper forms:

Learning How

Examples of Books

The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. 3rd ed. Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry Publishing Company, 2006.
Location: Morris Library – Reference (Ref CS49 .S65 2006) Available online through the wiki

Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian. By Elizabeth Shown Mills. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997.
Location: Morris Library (CS16 .M63 1997)

Delaware Genealogical Research Guide. 3rd ed. Wilmington, DE: Delaware Genealogical Society, 2002.
Location: Morris Library – Reference (Ref F163 .D349 2002)
Location: Morris Library – Special Collections (Del F163 .D349 2002)

The most important guide for doing genealogical research in Delaware. It covers specific types of records and where they can be found in the state. Edited by Thomas P. Doherty and published by the Delaware Genealogical Society (


Learning How

Examples of Websites

Interlibrary Loan

Use the Interlibrary Loan service to get materials not available in the library you are using. People affiliated with the University of Delaware can use Interlibrary Loan through the UD Library. People not affiliated with UD can use the service at a public library.

The WorldCat Local and WorldCat databases search the collections of libraries around the world. Both versions are available free on the Internet. The difference in the two versions is that the WorldCat Local version lists items held at the UD Library prominently.

Next: topic is Census. See Census Schedules (a UD Library Research Guide)

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