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Getting Started in Genealogy

Genealogy is a fascinating pastime, but to do it right you need a good foundation. As part of our goal to support family history research, we have collected a number of resources to help members and non-members get started in genealogy.  There’s plenty of help to get you started discover ing your family history.

  • The Family History Guide. Experience the world-class family history learning system used by learners in over 150 countries and approved by FamilySearch as an official training resource. It supports both beginners and experienced researchers and costs you nothing to use.

  • The Family History Library offers classes and webinars at no charge. In addition to participating in a live webinar, most of the classes are recorded and available to view when you have time. Bookmark this page so you can quickly check the monthly schedules.

  • Ancestry Academy offers a number of video lessons. Search for Your Family History Online: Laying the Foundation for video lessons that teach basic research principles with the focus on using The course is free and as is building your family tree at Ancestry. You will need a subscription to access records.

  • Lisa Louise Cooke has her Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast series. Each podcast includes downloadable show notes. You can also subscribe to these lessons in iTunes.

  • FamilySearch offers A Guide to Research in their FamilySearch Wiki.

  • FamilySearch also offers video courses in their Learning Center. These courses cover both basic and advanced research topics with a focus on the FamilySearch family tree and archives.

  • RootsTech is now primarily an online conference with over 1m attendees every year.  In 2023 it is extending back to its old roots as an in-person conference in Salt Lake City as well as online.  Having been online, it has archived a library of 1,500 presentations from 2021 and 2022 and will add more in 2023.

  • Cyndi’s List provides a comprehensive directory of resources ranging from applications and archives to local resources.

  • USGenWeb is group of volunteers working together to provide free genealogy websites for genealogical research in every county and every state of the United States.

  • How to Begin Tracing Your Family Tree – Kimberly Powell

  • 48 Search Tips (PDF – free download) – Family Tree University.  This e-book is full of tricks, hints and hacks to unlock new family tree discoveries. It also contains helpful guides to using the genealogy website, including an exclusive excerpt from the Unofficial Guide to by Nancy Hendrickson.

  • Family Tree Magazine has a number of free genealogy resources.

  •’s Free Research Guides  (PDF – free download) –  Topics include Getting Started, Places of Origin, Immigration, Census, Military, Probates and Miscellaneous.  There is a charge to access many of the records.

  • Sample Family History Research Plan – Lisa Alzo

  • Family History Library Webinars.  This page lists the current schedule of webinars plus the archive of previous presentations that have been recorded and archived so you can view them at any time. All are free.

  • New to Genealogy – Beginners First Steps.  FamilySearch has a wealth of education for beginners and experienced genealogists.

  • Genealogy/Family History Videos. This is a series of short videos from the online genealogy course prepared by the North Carolina State Library. Each video covers a single topic like sources, census and archives.

  • Genealogy 101: Back to the Basics This video from uses Ancestry in its examples, but the information presented covers the basics for all genealogical resources.

  • Linkpendium is another resource directory, focused on US states and county. They emphasize free resources provided by libraries, other government agencies, genealogical and historical societies, and individuals.

  • Surnames: Family Search Tips and Surname Origins (PDF – free download) – Family Tree University.  This free e-book contains some of Family Tree Magazine’s best genealogy tips relating to family names, including articles on basic surname research strategies, tips for seeking ancestral maiden names, what your surname reveals about your ethnic heritage, how to refining Google surname searches, and what you can learn by understanding surname meanings. Together this collection stands as a comprehensive guide to sorting out the surname snags in your family search.

  • Historical Map Overlays for Google Maps and Google Earth – Kimberly Powell.  You can overlay any historic map in Google Maps or Google Earth, but getting everything to match up accurately through geo-referencing can be quite tedious. In some cases others have already done the hard part, making available free downloads of historical maps sized, geo-referenced and ready for you to import directly into Google Maps or Google Earth.

  • How to Create a Genealogy GEDCOM File From Genealogy Software or Online Tree – Kimberly Powell.  GEDCOM files are the standard format used for sharing family tree information between programs, so are often necessary for sharing your family tree file with friends or family members, or for moving your information to a new software or service.

  • The Researcher’s Digital Toolbox (PDF – free download) – Denise Olson.  This guide presents a collection of tools that will support your genealogical research efforts. These are general-purpose tools that will help you find, collect and organize information about your family history.

  • Research Delivered: An Introduction to Newsreaders (PDF – free download) – Denise Olson. This guide is an introduction to newsreader and the Feedly news reading platform. The newsreader is a pleasant and efficient way to keep up with a large number of news sources. This guide shows you how to get started with Feedly and find news sources that can help your research effort.

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