Children's Genealogical Research

Abrams Collection Genealogy Highlights
March/April 2001
Volume 3, Number 2

What is genealogy?
Genealogy is the history of your family. Completing a family history is a process of arranging your family members in order by generations. It is often necessary for you to search for information by interviewing relatives, consulting family documents, visiting libraries and contacting county courthouses and churches. Researching your ancestors, and discovering the significant events of their lives, can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

How do I get started?
Genealogy is not an expensive or difficult hobby to start. You need a pad of paper, some folders and a couple of pencils. The key to success is organization. Start keeping a folder with dividers for each family name you are researching. Lack of organization will make your search more confusing. Start with yourself (what you know) and work back in time (what you don't know).

Some people think that genealogy is only done in libraries, archives, and courthouses. Actually, one of the best places to go for information is our own homes or the homes of our relatives. Before tackling the resources at your local library or archives, take time to explore family bibles, scrapbooks and photo albums. With permission, check out grandma's closet, attic or storage area in the basement. You may find a stash of genealogical information in those hidden treasures. Look at your family history as a treasure hunt or a mystery.

Make your research a family project. Get Mom, Dad and the entire family involved with your research. One of the best things about genealogy is that it is a hobby that can be shared and enjoyed with the whole family.

We suggest that you follow these steps when beginning your research:

Step 1: Get a pedigree chart.
A pedigree chart is a form that shows the various lines of ancestors for a person. It is like a map showing you what you know and what you need to find out.

Step 2: Read, Read, Read...
Select a "how-to" book on genealogy. Read a book that explains how to do research on families in the United States. You can explore Canadian, Mexican or overseas ancestors at a later time. Your local library or bookstore will have several titles to choose from.

Step 3: Don't start until you have done your homework.
See how much of the pedigree chart you can fill out by using sources that you find at home. The best home sources are parents, grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Other home sources include:

  • Journals/Diaries
  • Letters
  • Scrapbooks
  • Newspaper Clippings
  • Announcements
  • School Records
  • Family Bibles
  • Baby Books
  • Medical Records
  • Photo Albums
  • Certificates
  • Church Records
  • Memorial Cards
  • Family Traditions
  • Autograph Books
  • Other Family Books

Step 4: Oral Histories
Interview relatives and important citizens from the communities where your family lived. It is a good idea to tape record your family interviews because you will be able to replay them and pick up new bits of information each time you listen. Remember to get permission before recording your interviews.

Step 5: Plan a detailed search strategy.
Make sure your research is organized. Use your pedigree chart to focus on a particular individual. You can't search for all of your ancestors at the same time.

Step 6: Newspapers and Census Records
Search newspapers for birth, marriage and death announcements from towns that your family lived in and explore U.S. and Canadian census records.

Step 7: Search for vital records.
Vital records (birth, death, and marriage) are located at the Vital Records Division of the Michigan Department of Community Health or at the county courthouse.

How do I begin my research?
Writing your information on a pedigree chart is a great place to start. Start with what you already know and work you way back through history, finding lost ancestors along the way. Fill in your name along with the date and place of your birth. Next complete the same information for your parents. Ask them to provide the date and place of their marriage. By doing this you have already recorded the history of two generations.

When you are unable to find the answers you are looking for by interviewing family members and searching family records, it is time to visit your local library. Most public libraries have a collection of family history materials. The Internet is also a great place to look for information. Contact the Library of Michigan for assistance. Librarians staffing the reference desks are there to help researchers like you find information.

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The following titles and Web pages may help you get started. Clicking on the links in the list of resources below will take you directly to the ANSWER record for that item.

Print Materials

Allen, Desmond Walls. First Steps in Genealogy: A Beginner's Guide to Researching Your Family History. Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 1998.
Genealogy CS 16 .A454 1998

Andriot, Jay. Township Atlas of the United States. McLean, VA: Documents Index,1991.
Genealogy G 1201 .F7 A5 1991
Housed at the Genealogy Desk

Beller, Susan Provost. Roots for Kids: A Genealogy Guide for Young People. White Hall,VA: Betterway Books, 1989.
Genealogy CS 15.5 .B45 1989

Bentley, Elizabeth Petty. County Courthouse Book. 2nd ed. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub.Co., 1995.
Genealogy KF 8700 .A19 B46 1995
Housed at the Genealogy Desk

Bentley, Elizabeth Petty. Genealogist's Address Book. 5th ed. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1991-.
Genealogy CS 44 .G456 5th 2005
Housed at the Genealogy Desk

Bremer, Ronald A. Compendium of Historical Sources: The How and Where of American Genealogy. Bountiful, UT: AGLL Inc., 1997.
Genealogy CS 49 .B74 1997
Housed at the Genealogy Desk.

Brittan, Liana. Genealogy for Children: A Resource for Teachers, Parents and Grandparents. Almonte, Ont.: Educational Support Personnel, 1997.
Genealogy CS 16 .B758 1997

Chorzempa, Rosemary A. My Family Tree Workbook: Genealogy for Beginners. New York: Dover Publications, 1982.
Genealogy CS 16 .C47 1982

Crandall, Ralph J. Shaking Your Family Tree: A Basic Guide to Tracing Your Family's Genealogy. Dublin, NH: Yankee Pub., 1986.
Genealogy CS 16 .C73 1986

Croom, Emily Anne. Unpuzzling Your Past Workbook: Essential Forms and Letters for All Genealogists. Cincinnati: Betterway Pub., 1996.
Genealogy CS 47 .C77 1996

Directory of Historical Organizations in the United States and Canada. Nashville: American Association for State and Local History, 1990-.
Genealogy E 172 .D48 2002
Housed at the Genealogy Desk.

Douglas, Ann. The Family Tree Detective: Cracking the Case of Your Family's Story. New York: Firefly Books, 1999.
Genealogy CS 15.5 .D68 1999

Handy Book for Genealogists: United States of America. 9th ed. Logan, UT: Everton Publishers, 1999.
Genealogy CS 47 .H35 1999
Housed at the Genealogy Desk.

Harris, Maurine. Ancestry's Concise Genealogical Dictionary. Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publishing, 1989.
Genealogy CS 6 .H37 1989
Housed at the Genealogy Desk.

Johnson, Anne E. A Student's Guide to British American Genealogy. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1996.
Genealogy E 184 .B7 J64 1996

Kavasch, E. Barrie, A Student's Guide to Native American Genealogy. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1996.
Genealogy E 98 .G44 K39 1996

Kemp, Thomas Jay. International Vital Records Handbook. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 2000.
Genealogy CS 42.7 .K46 2000
Housed at the Genealogy Desk.

Meshenberg, Michael J. Documents of Our Ancestors: A Selection of Reproducible Genealogy Forms and Tips for Using Them. Teaneck, NJ: Avotaynu, 1996.
Genealogy CS 24.M47 1996

Romig, Walter. Michigan Place Names: The History of the Founding and the Naming of More Than Five Thousand Past and Present Michigan Communities. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1986.
Michigan F 564 .R6 1986
Housed at the Genealogy Desk.

Szucs, Loretto Dennis. The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1997.
Genealogy CS 49 .S65 1997
Housed at the Genealogy Desk.

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Internet Resources

Genealogy Merit Badge for Boy Scouts
Web site listing requirements for Boy Scouts to earn a Genealogy Merit Badge.

USGenWeb Kidz Project
Complete Web site with "how-to" information, links to other sites and where you are able to post queries.

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Updated 08/02/2011