Step 4 - Learn More About Genealogy


After you have filled in the pedigree chart and family group sheets with as much information as you can remember and have spoken to members of your family about what they know, you are ready to move on to Step 4.

Read a Book

There are several basic books you can read about genealogy, such as, Unpuzzling Your Past by Emily Anne Croom (Cincinnati: Betterway Publications, 2003) or The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Genealogy by Christine Rose and Kay Germain Ingalls (New York: Alpha Books, 1997). A classic textbook, used in many courses, is Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy by Val Greenwood (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2000).

There are excellent articles in popular genealogy periodicals, such as, Ancestry Magazine, Family Tree Magazine, and Heritage Quest Magazine, just to name a few.  After you have been doing genealogy for a while, you may be interested in some of the more scholarly journals, such as, The American Genealogist, the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, the New England Historical and Genealogy Register, and The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record.  Many more fine genealogical and historical journals are published in each state. You can find these and other books and periodicals at your local library or in the bookstore. You can also subscribe to the magazines and periodicals and have them regularly sent to your home.

Join a Society or Genealogy Organization

The easiest and most enjoyable way to learn more about genealogy is by joining a genealogical society in your city. If you live in a small town or a rural area where there is no genealogical society, most counties have genealogical societies. Typically at a monthly society meeting, there will be a knowledgeable speaker who will give a demonstration or lesson on one aspect of genealogy, such as vital records, cemetery records, military records, etc. Some organizations have a beginner’s session for new people before the general meeting. Genealogical societies are places where you can meet people with a similar interest and perhaps find a new cousin. We are always amazed that if we go back far enough we find that we are related to people we work with, people we went to school with, and sometime even find that we have unknowingly married our seventh cousin, once removed!

There are thousands of specialty societies for geographic areas. For example, you might join an online list service for people doing research in Grayson County, Virginia, or for people doing research in a wider geographic area, such as the New River Valley area which covers the border counties in the southwest corner of Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. You might join a society of people doing research in Surrey, England or some other place from which your ancestors came to the United States. There are some societies for people who have ancestors who were pioneers in a particular state before statehood.

You might join a one-name society (the Campbells, the Benningtons, the Greers, or thousands of others). These genealogy societies don’t have to be in your town. Membership dues vary but many are as little as $10 a year and you get a copy of the newsletter or magazine with the privilege of putting queries in the publications for free.

There are also lineage societies to join but often you will have to prove that you are a descendant of, for example, someone who fought in the American Revolution or someone who came over on the “Mayflower.”

There are ethnic societies to join, for example: Polish Genealogical Society of America, Jewish Genealogical Society of Colorado, Ancient Order of Hibernians in America, Sons of Norway, Czech and Slovak Genealogical Society, etc. See Cyndi’s List for websites of many more ethnic societies.    

Besides, local societies, there are state and national societies. You may decide to join the National Genealogical Society or the Federation of Genealogical Societies, These organizations have annual conferences in various parts of the country with well-known speakers and educational sessions to attend.

Take a Class

You may find that there is a genealogy or family history course offered at your local community college. You may attend workshops and lectures at the public library in your town. Brigham Young University has a certificate and degree program as well as an Independent Study program with free online courses offered by well-known professional genealogists. Contact them at http://e-learn.byu.edu or call 1-800-914-8931.

The National Genealogical Society offers a home study and an online course. Check them out at www.ngsgenealogy.org/.

Help Me!  Can you find the closest genealogical society to me?

Help Me!  Can you find an ethnic, lineage, or a one-name society relevant to my area of research?

To ask these or similar questions, click on Help Me!, fill out the form that comes up, and submit your questions.