Genealogical Society of South Whidbey Island
old sepia photos

Information for Beginners

Getting Started With Your Family History

Getting started is as easy as looking around your home and finding documents and items about your family members. (See the checklist.) Look for family albums, scrapbooks, promotion or graduation records, birth/marriage/divorce/death announcements, family Bible, pension or military documents, baby books, diaries, achievement awards, family photographs, obituaries, engraved jewelry, ancestral quilts, yearbooks, medical records, citizenship papers, visa documents, estate records, social security information, family genealogy pedigree charts (if you’re REALLY lucky), etc.

Organize the records you find into family groups – your family, your parents, your grandparents, etc. Put these documents into file folders or archival sleeves (plastic sheet protectors, three-ring version) and then into three-ring binders.

Next, make a list of elder family members and make plans to interview these relatives. These oral histories can be accomplished in person, over the phone, or via email or US mail. Make a list of the questions you want to have your relatives answer. Make copies of family photos with or without names and share copies of these with your family members. Make your questions open-ended, such as, "What do you remember about your...(parents or grandparents or aunts and uncles or cousins)?" Once you have this kind of information, you can begin to research your family even more – federal census records, birth/marriage/divorce and/or death certificates can be obtained.

Purchase a good genealogy guide book. One recommended to our new genealogical society members:

Allen, Desmond Walls. First Steps in Genealogy: A Beginner's Guide to Researching Your Family History. Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 1998.

Be sure to check the schedule for our beginner's education class, listed on our Calendar page.

Lorena Klumpp, mother of Mary Sue
Two photos of Lorena Klumpp, who celebrated her 100th birthday in May 2008