The genealogy basics below may be as humble and ordinary as Underdog’s alter ego, but you’ll have a hard time getting your research off the ground if you haven’t crossed them off your list.
• Go through your closets and attic for records such as birth and death certificates, military service papers and the like. Ask relatives to do the same.
• Interview family members. For how-tos, see the September 2004 Trace Your Family History, a special issue of Family Tree Magazine.
• Download a blank ancestor chart from <www.familytreemagazine.com/freeforms>. Then record family names, births, marriages and deaths. Note any information you’re not sure about.
• Search online indexes to basic records such as censuses, passenger lists and military draft cards. Start with our compilation of 101 Best Web Sites in the August 2006 Family Tree Magazine.
• Use online death indexes (link to many from <home.att.net/-wee-monster/deathrecords.html>), obituaries or the Social Security Death Index to learn when and where an ancestor died, then visit the state vital-statistics office Web site (see <www.cdc.gov/nchs/howto/w2w/w2welcom.htm>) for how-tos on requesting a copy of the death certificate.
• Search the Salt Lake City-based FHL’s online catalog by place or surname to see what books and microfilm might be related to your family. Order film through your local FHC; FHL books don’ circulate, but the titles may be at other libraries.
• Join a genealogical or historical society to network with other genealogists and learn the ins and outs of research in your hometown.
From the May 2007 issue of Family Tree Magazine.