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How To Start Your Research

Hi Barbara,

The first step is to read the Beginners Guide here at Afrigeneas:

After you do that, if you want to read some more, there are two great books:

Finding a Place Called Home by Dee Parmer Woodtor


Black Roots by Tony Burroughs.

At some point, you should read both to get an overview of genealogical research, it'll be easy to understand all the pieces and resources. But you can start right now if you want to.

1. Write down everything you know starting with yourself and working backward for the relatives you know: name, age, birth date & place, parents, residences, social security nuber, military service, death, burial place, etc.

2. Use a software program to organize your research. I use Family Tree Maker, but there are other programs. PAF through the LDS (Morman) Church is free.

3. Access an online genealogy database. There are free and pay sites. You can get free access on your home computer to some of the pay sites if your local public library has the site as a part of it's library service.

Once you are in the database, start with the 1930 census and work backward every ten years. Keep in mind, many census years are every name, but 1910 is only head of family and 1890 burned up. 1880 is free at Look for military records in the WWI and WWII Draft Cards, as well as the Civil War database. The Social Security Death Index is free at Once you have this info, branch out to see what else is available for your locatios online. Try Google too. Many states have state archives that have great info online: Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, South Carolina and Pennsylvania have death records, birth records, and military records online for free (not every state has every kind of record.)

Here are just a few of the many sites I use in order of usefulness: (expensive, free at my public library, not at home) ($35.00/year) (free) (free)

4. Join online genealogy sites, such as Afrigeneas, where you can ask questions and get help. Besides Afrigeneas, which I consider home, I also look at local and countywide sites, such as You can go there, find out where your family lived and then post questions on the local site.

Good Luck and Enjoy!


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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