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Genealogy: Investigating Your Family Tree   Tags: genealogy, guide, history, missouri, resource  

Tools and resources to help you search your family history and preserve materials based upon the Missouri River Regional Library collection in Jefferson City, Mo.
Last Updated: May 9, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Getting Started

Maybe you are curious about your ancestors. What should be your first steps?

Use this as a starting point for your project and to invetigate this LibGuide!

Tips on getting started

Missouri Resources
Materials relating primarily to our state

Print Resources

Electronic Resources
Digital and Web resources

Preserve & Record
Techniques for preserving and recording history

Kid Detectives
Genealogy resources for the beginner

National genealogy societies

Watch Out
Scam dangers


Sources of information

Here are places you may find information. Always yuse originals whenever possible.


  • Certificates:
    Birth, marriage, and death
  • Family Bibles
  • Letters
  • Photos
  • Diaries and journals
  • Scrapbooks
  • School report cards, yearbooks and diplomas
  • Anything else that might contain family information

Public records:

  • US Census records (available from 1790 - 1940)
  • Passenger lists and naturalization papers
  • Military records
  • Criminal records
  • Cemeteries
  • Newspaper articles, birth and wedding notices, obituaries
  • Church registers: Baptism, marriage, death and burial records
  • Municipal records (city hall or county courthouse) including estate records (wills, inventories) and deeds
  • State office of vital statistics
  • Local and state archives and historical societies
  • Libraries: Published family histories
  • Federal records
  • School names, locations and records
  • Occupation-related information

Internet (see Electronic Resources):


Getting Started: 10 Tips

Take a breath. Ready to get started?  Join Nick Barratt and  Laura Berry from The Family History Show as they suggest 10 tips to keep in mind as you prepare to take that first step..


Starting your family tree? Consider these first steps

Ask why. Do you plan on this being a hobby – or a passion. Decide on your goals.

Get organized. Read an introductory book or two on genealogy. Don’t be afraid of the paper you’ll generate! Build a filing system. Use “to do” lists.

Start small. Start with yourself, then work backwards to parents, then grandparents, rather than grab all of the information you can initially find. Start with one person at a time, one story at a time.

Grab the perishables. The clock is always ticking, Don’t gather information at the expense of missing stories, experiences and information from those who may move or pass away. 

Preserve photos and documents. See list (left) for information sources based on documents, public records and the Interent.

Interview with intent. Where possible, make an audio and/or video recording. For best results, ask for one piece of information at a time. Remember to ask for memories and about experiences, and not just facts, (“Tell me about when you came home from school.”) Let them know how their information will be used and ask for their permission. 

Build a network. Let your immediate and extended family know what you are doing. (They may have their own genealogy information!) Get children involved to stir their interest. Build support by joining a local or online genealogy group or society.

Be consistent.  Use full names, not nicknames. Use only maiden names for females. If you don’t have a full name, use what you have for now. Use European mode for dates (DDMMYYYY). When recording a location, start from the smallest entity to the largest (city and country to country).

Keep backup copies. Update regularly and keep a copy in a secondary location. Digitize photos and documents. Document your progress and sources of information.

Decide your destination. Where will you preserve your work? Do you want to fill out a form? Utilize software to fill out a spreadsheet? Create a blog or website? It could even be a limited-access site for family only.

Tell a story. Genealogy is about more than filling in boxes with names and dates. It is a story of people and movements made up of countless little stories.

Share your story. Communicate your process and progress on the web, in a blog or by notes and email for family and others. Other researchers will also be interested.

Be ready for the brick wall. Everyone comes to what appears to be a dead end. Recheck information, ask more questions and look for movement.

Take detours. Don’t be afraid to change directions based on findings

Give credit where credit is due. Acknowledge family members, photographers and other who have helped you.

Met your goal? Congratulations! Now set a new one!

Subject Guide

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Ken Satterfield
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The Missouri River Regional Library is the public library serving Cole and Osage counties in Missouri. We have branches in Jefferson City and Linn, as well as a Bookmobile that travels throughout both counties.


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