Getting Started

Work to be a family historian and not simply a compiler of pedigrees.

Get to know the whole family.  Do this from the very beginning.  It may be tempting to research only "my direct line" but eventually this will cause you problems.  

All sound genealogy is built on source records - those records generated during the life of your ancestor - but many times when we first begin our families have none of those to consult. 

The first starting place for all genealogists is their own family.  

Start by
Compiling What's Known

Once you have gathered all you can from your family it is time to start the process of genealogy research.
Making a space to do genealogy is very helpful and acquiring a few tools is important.  The more organized you can be from the beginning the more successful you will be in seeing all the clues you have.

Learn from the beginning to cite your sources.  There has been a trend in genealogy to standardize citations and sometimes the advice for "proper citation" is so formal and intimidating people simply ignore the process altogether.  Don't do that!  Instead remember what a citation is for: 
a citation should lead anyone reading / using your research down the line back to the record that you built your research on.  

    At minimum you need:
    If it is a book you need the author, title, publisher, year
    If it is a document you need its original source like
       Kentucky, Nelson County.  Deed Book 5 p. 42
       Maryland, Charles County.  Marriage Book C p. 42

    If it is a memory/something someone told you give the details of who told you and when so
    that the person looking at your research might evaluate that memory and who held it.

Genealogy software helps with citations but many researchers are overwhelmed by how complicated it looks.  Here is the good news.  If you get the basic information in you can always tweak it later without that much trouble if you decide you didn't format it quite properly.

Organizing what you have found
You will save yourself a great deal of work if you purchase a good genealogy program.  If you are not ready to do that then visit one of the sites that let you print out forms and make certain you have a pedigree chart (which shows 4 or 5 generations of your lineage) AND family groupsheets which show father, mother and children information.