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Your Interactive Guide: Essential Steps for Beginners - cont.

Join A Local Genealogy Society

Itís time to get hooked up. As your research begins, join one of the many African American genealogy societies that exist, including the national AAHGS. 

Deciding Which Line to Research

As you can see from the pedigree chart that you downloaded, there are many lines to pursue, and at some point, you have to make a decision. That decision is: which line should I research first? The best rule is the line that you know most about from your own family ties and the amount of information that you have collected up to this point. Example: Your motherís side of the family may contain intriguing stories, but you havenít a clue who her parents were. Your fatherís line yielded lots of information when you wrote and called family members. Decision: Go with your fatherís line for now. As time and opportunity permit, you can pick up information on your motherís line, especially if both parents came from the same area. EXCEPTION: Interview members of the family on both lines at the beginning.

Ordering Vital Records

You will not find all of the marriage, birth and death certificates in one place or with one family member. Often, you will need to find this information, if it exists, in various places (Bureau of Vital Records for your state, a local County Courthouse, cemetery headstones, etc.) To find out how to obtain vital records for your state and county, go to the following website. Make sure you bookmark these sites because you will use them frequently.

  • How to Obtain Vital Records:

  • SSDI - Social Security Death Index:
    This is an important tool when you donít know the date of death for one of your ancestors. The SSDI is online at You can also write a letter to the Social Security Administration requesting a copy of the original application. The response time for receiving copies varies, but plan to wait at least one month.

  • IGI - International Genealogical Index:
    First read about the IGI. Then try to locate some of your ancestors by entering their names.


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