The best way to begin your genealogy is to start by writing down everything that you and your family members know about your family history.
Items you may find useful:
1) When possible, make personal visits to relatives to ask for information. Bring a notebook, a pencil and a list of questions. Write down all known vital information (births, deaths, marriages, place names, maiden names, surnames) as well as memories and family stories. Family memories may not seem relevant in the beginning but may be crucial to your search later on. Don’t discount any detail.
2) I remember spending many hours talking over the phone, pencil in hand scribbling notes as we spoke. It was through one of our many phone conversations that she remembered a detail which allowed me to find a death certificate for her father.
Don’t assume you’ve received all you need to know in one call or visit. Especially when you are speaking to your older relatives, whom you should make your first priority to speak with, as when they die their memories go with them. My grandmother remembered new details and new memories every time we spoke.
3) Another idea you might consider is mailing a tape with a return envelope and a list of questions to various relatives, asking them to record their answers or relate any special memories onto the tape.
After you have begun to gather information, you will then want to begin recording it in a standard way. There are two forms you can use to do this:
A Pedigree Chart is a record of your Direct ancestral line (you, your parents, your grandparents, etc.)
A Family Group Record, unlike a Pedigree Chart, will let you list all the members of one family and their information. So you, your spouse and children, your parents and siblings, your grandparents and all of their children, etc.
By visiting the links above you can download each type of form to your computer which will allow you to print it out and record the information by hand. Or you can record the information into a Family History Program such as Personal Ancestral File (PAF). PAF is a free program offered by the LDS Church. Version 5.2 is the most current version available.
No matter how you ultimately decide to record your Family History, the most important thing is to begin gathering information as soon as possible. Don’t let precious, time-saving information and memories die with those you love.