Get Started Searching

For those who are just getting started with genealogy research we have created the following two page research form that should help you get started.

Summary of relevant links:

We are still refining the research form and would benefit from your comments.  Please visit or Facebook page and  let us know how we can improve the form.  Thanks!


AncestryPaths Get Started page 1

AncestryPaths Get Started page 2

Link to printable PDF version of AncestryPaths get started summary Apr 2015


We have broken down the process into several sections and detailed the basics of how to begin a broad-based search using a wide range of sources.

Getting Started & First Steps – The BBC has a well written summary of getting started researching family history.  They cover the basics including first steps, looking for clues, organizing the data, developing a research strategy and ways to get help.  They also provide a blank family tree form and an information worksheet that can be used to document your notes.  The Canadian Archives also has a page on getting started including thoughts on the approach you want to use such as starting with yourself, working backward, and gathering family documents and records.  The BBC also has tips on constructing your family tree using use birth, marriage and census records.

If you are just starting down the Ireland ancestral trail check out this 24 page booklet on Family History Research sources at the National Library of Ireland.

Research from your home for free – This section covers the basics of how you can use freely available websites to get started searching from home at no cost.  Enough detail is included so that someone with limited genealogy experience can get started without delay and without cost.

We demonstrate how to look up several items including obituary, census and death records.  For each we give an overview as well as detailed step-by-step instructions.

A real world example of John D. Rockefeller’s daughter, Alta, who lived in Cleveland is used in each section. Cleveland is used as an example.  We recognize that resources in your local area will differ and we present ideas on how to find the available resources.

Research from home using library resources for free – This page shows how to extend your search by using resources generally made available from your local library using your library card and password.  Many libraries offer remote access to several beneficial genealogy resources.  In Cleveland, the library offers remote access  to digital historic newspapers, Heritage Quest and  We encourage you to become familiar with what resources are available at your local library and provide several examples.

Research at your local library – This page shows what type of information is typically available at local libraries while on site using their computers, microfilm readers and books.  It is highly common for libraries to offer free access to premium pay-for-services such as and  Additionally, libraries typically have microfilm access to some amount of information which can include city directories, census, birth, marriage and death records.  We give examples of each and tips on how to maximize the full range of library resources. Use our visual access to find a library.

Research at Local City and County Offices – This page shows the type of information that is available at local city and county offices which include birth, marriage, divorce, tax, home ownership  and death records.  We present examples and give tips for navigating city and county offices.  Use our visual access to find a local County office.

Research at Regional State Offices – State Archive websites can be a helpful source including details on what type of information is available and how to order records.  Over the next few weeks we will be expanding our website with more insight into State Archive offices and until that work is completed we recommend you consider using this link to National Archives page for State Archives or this link to The Council of State Archivists which each have full listing of state and territorial archives and records programs.


Research at National Government Agencies – We introduce what type of information is available at government agencies including National Archives, military records, social security death records, immigration records, passport records, alien registrations and draft records.

Research at Historical and Genealogy Centers – Perhaps the single best source for local information with folks who care about genealogy can be found at local historical societies, genealogy societies and heritage centers.  We provide tips on how to find these folks and what types of data may be available.