Genealogy 101

Getting Started in Genealogy

Our regular meetings offer a wide variety of information on researching your ancestors. We encourage you to attend regularly. Attendance also facilitates networking with others looking for their family's histories. CFGS also offers periodic classes on Getting Started in Genealogy and related subjects. To find out more check out our Meeting Calendar and Events Page for a listing of both CFGS Meetings and Genealogy Classes offered at the library.

The following handouts are utilized in our beginner classes. Read them to get an idea of where to start - Getting Started in Genealogy and Getting the Most from Free Genealogical Web Sites. You should also review every page of our Genealogy Tips and "How Tos".

FamilySearch is a good place to start and it is free - FamilySearch.org - A Goldmine for Genealogists and see their FamilySearch.org Site Map to discover what resources they have plus classes and videos in their Learning Center. Family Search also has a good Family History for Beginners section you should check out. Cyndi's List is listed below as a general resource with thousands of links to genealogy sites but their Beginners Section is designed for those starting out. If you are using Ancestry.com (paid) make sure you should view the helpful videos on their YouTube Channel.

If you are confused about how you are related to others in your family, this YouTube video on Your Family Tree Explained will help.

Past Meeting Notes

CFGS offers multiple meetings every month in vairous locations. For some we maintain a list of our past sessions with links to speakers, topics and websites that were discussed. These can be found on our General Meeting Notes and Computer Group Notes pages. In some cases an email link is provided for you to obtain additional information on a particular meeting or topic. Noite that for some meeting notes, access is only available to our members.

Forms to Use in Your Genealogy Research

There are many genealogy forms that you can use to help you organize and document your family's history. The primary forms are the Family Group Sheet and Pedigree or Ancestral Chart and various research logs. The Family Group Sheet is used to document a husband and wife plus their complete family including their parents and children. The Pedigree Chart is the familiar family tree that shows how everyone is related to each other up and down the generations but it also contains birth, marriage and death information. There are also a number of research forms that should be used to help plan and keep track of your research by listing objectives, sources used, people and places visited, search results, and findings.

Using standard forms in conjunction with a good genealogy software program when starting out can help you track your research and avoid duplication. It is also helpful to have a complete set of clean copies of the blank US Census forms that you can use to determine what the column headings are. A large variety of free genealogy forms are available on Ancestry.com,, Cyndi's List, FamilySearch.org website and elsewhere on the Internet. Also most of the popular genealogy programs will generate these forms using your data. CFGS is providing several forms here that you might want to use in your research:

  • Family Group Sheet prepared by CFGS that can be printed and used to organize each family you are researching
  • Family Group Sheet Page 1 and Page 2, interactive PDF forms from the Ancestors TV show on PBS that can be completed using Adobe Reader before printing 
  • Fillable Pedigree Chart is an interactive PDF form from Ancestors TV show on PBS that can be completed using Adobe Reader before printing.

African American Genealogical Research

The Orange County Library System offers a pamphlet on Resources for African American Genealogical Research to specifically help you get started locating black ancestors.

Miscelaneous Resources

The Orange County Library's West Oaks Branch and Genealogy Center has a wide assortment of books and other materials to assist you in beginning your research. Check out their Genealogy Center Guide (PDF) to find out about their resource materials that are available.

The Genealogy By Barry Blog has a list of over 70 Beginning Genealogy 101 Tutorials that can be viewed or downloaded for free. While there, I recommend you subscribe to his free newsletter and check our all the other resources he makes available at no charge.

Are You New to Genealogy?

· December 21, 2014

Welcome to the fascinating world of family history research! You can learn more about you, your ancestors, and why you are the person you are today.

Here is a list of articles from my newsletter that I think are the most useful resources for anyone who is learning how to find their ancestors:

Read more ...

Online Courses on Getting Started in Genealogy

There are a number of online courses available to help you get started on your family history. A few are listed below.

Introduction to Genealogy on About.com A self-paced, four-lesson class packed full of new concepts, techniques and ideas which will hopefully get you started.

Getting Started: 5 Minute Genealogy from FamilySearch 

Ancestry.com Learning Center Free lessons but site is by subscription (but is free at most libraries).

Genealogy.com offers over 50 free classes on many subjects.

BYU free classes on Family History and Genealogy.

Using a Genealogy Program

On Saturday November 14 we held a combined meeting of the Family Tree Maker and the Computer Genealogy Groups. The topic was Using a Genealogy Program - If you Were Starting Over, What Would You Do Different. Although it was presented from the standpoint of a long time user of a genealogy program, whether you are just starting out or have been using a genealogy program for a long time, this is a must read.

The specific topics discussed were:

See Topics and Link to Presentation

Measuring America: The Decennial Census from 1790 to 2000 - A Guide to the US Census

Have you ever wondered what something means in the US Census? Why did the Census Taker record things the way they were recorded? Now you can find out! The US Census Office has released a guide to the US Census that provides instructions the Census Takers were told and how they were to record the information they collected.

Read More & Download Link

Learn More About DNA Testing

The Board for Certification of Genealogists in their SpringBoard Blog has stated "we must at least consider genetic genealogy as part of our reasonably exhaustive research. Not all projects require DNA testing, but some will benefit from it, and others will be difficult to pursue without it. We can't ignore the value of genetic testing as a research tool. Let's learn how to use it!" Toward the goal of understanding and using DNA in genealogy they say that "the single best way of learning is to test yourself and numerous family members and then explore the results using the tools at the vendor(s)' website". They also listed a number of resources and publication to learn more about DNA testing and how to use it in your research. You can find their article and list in their Dec. 3, 2015 Blog Post titled Genetic Genealogy Education.

Choosing a Genealogy Software Program Webinar

If you are using the discontinued genealogy software programs Family Tree Maker or The Master Genealogist and want to change, or if you are just beginning to research your family tree you will want to watch this new webinar from American Ancestors by NEHGS.

At first it seems easy enough to remember who you are researching and what you have accomplished. However, quickly you discover that you have a number of individuals and are beginning to compile a list of research tasks that you need to accomplish. Before you get too many names and records, you will want to consider acquiring a genealogy software package.

Click for Links to List of Software