Read “genealogy how to’s” in books, magazines, newspapers and on the web -- get a feel for what you are about to undertake, visit used books stores too. There is always something new to learn.
Collect genealogical forms and supplies -– your needs will change over time
Interview or write to your parents and grandparents and their siblings -- see what they know about the family. Record the interviews if possible.
Gather family papers -– photos, certificates (birth, death, marriage, etc.), family bibles, family group sheets, diplomas, obituaries, funeral/burial cards, old family letters, memorabilia, etc. Write “thank you” notes because you’ll probably need to approach the givers later for more information. Use a scanner or digital camera on old photos and documents that relatives won’t part with.
Keep logs for both your correspondence and your research log -– this will aid in knowing what has already been searched along with a notation of what was found and/or not found. It can also be used to keep a list of specific items to be researched in the future.
Fill in a pedigree chart -– list as many ancestors as you can
Research collateral lines -– include in your research the families of your aunts and uncles and cousins
Check on others around your relatives -– note data for neighbors, friends, business partners, witnesses, godparents, etc. as they may provide clues for your family
Be considerate of others -– some family members may not share your enthusiasm for various reasons including privacy and “dark family secrets”
Determine the genealogical software you want to use -– this cannot be done too soon. Don’t worry about out-growing it. You can transfer your data to a newer version later.
Attend genealogy classes/lectures/conferences -– you’ll gain new insights and new knowledge plus meet people with similar interests who can provide you with tips and new leads. The further back in time you go the more people there are working on the same family lines.
Join genealogy societies/groups -– local, county, state and/or national and read their newsletters
Find birth, death and marriage records -– in the locality of the event or on the web
Find alternate records -– censuses, christening, city directories, burial/cemetery, etc. These sources can provide much new information along with clues for further research.
Begin setting up your filing system -– organize the papers, etc. you’ve collected. Again, remembering that your needs will change over time.
Find probate records, wills, immigration and naturalization records -– these are the most widely accepted primary records
Find records for taxes, land and property transactions, deeds, ship passenger and military -– these fill in many holes and provide new clues
Look for employment and retirement records -– particularly Social Security, Railroad Retirement, and, military pensions
Publish your information -– via some means (e.g. a newsletter, a small write-up, a book, or a web site) put all or parts of your accumulated knowledge out there for others to see. This allows you to get feedback.
Make your presence known -– get written up by various genealogical societies, libraries and the LDS church for your published information and for your queries.
Repeat all of the above steps as often as needed -– remember, it’s never done