Basic Genealogical "How-To" Information

Online Guides (free) * Online Study Courses ($) * Books * Tapes

There are several online guides available to help educate the beginning genealogist.

The Rootsweb Guide site offers quite a comprehensive list of subjects for which the site has a research guide.

Dear Myrtle's lessons offer "down to earth advice" on a variety of topics. You might also enjoy her columns's Learning Center has a special section for beginners, as well as topics of interest to more advanced researchers.

Heritage Quest's Genealogy 101 site is a good, basic introduction to several topics.

Access Genealolgy: Includes a comprehensive "New to Genealogy?" tutorial.

Brigham Young Unversity offers a series of free online courses in family history. (Be sure to read the FAQ). [ note: so far, I've not been able to get this to work. ]

Barnes & Noble sometimes offers genealogy courses in conjunction with books they are selling. I like Emily Croom's book "Unpuzzling Your Past" and that is a course they somtimes offer. There may be others. They appear to be listed in the "Life Improvement" section.

Online Study Courses offered for a fee:

The National Genealogical Society has been educating genealogists for decades.  They offer a fairly inexpensive on-line introduction.  Don't confuse this with the excellent, but quite expensive home study course.. This course has been given for decades (not online, of course)  and thousands have found it to be an excellent basis for ongoing research. offers Online Genealogy Training Courses - these 4 week classes include temporary access to selected subscriptions.

The National Institute for Genealogical Studies is housed in Canada but offers courses covering research in a variety of countries and specialties.

Heritage Genealogy College offers a degree in genealogy. All courses except internships and apprenticeships can be taken online.

Recommended books for learning research skills. Here are some books I recommend for doing basic American research. You can buy them on the net, and sometimes you can find these in the bigger bookstores. But before you shell out money, why not review them? These books may well be in your local library, along with several others that are also good. Whenever I have a "find in a library" link, you can personalize the results by typing in your zip code. The result will then display libraries near that zip code.

My favorites: Emily Croom's books:

For beginners-- Unpuzzling Your Past is her basic guidebook (find in a library). A companion volume is the Unpuzzling Your Past Workbook. (find in a library)

A next step would be her Genealogist's Companion and Sourcebook, (find in a library) which builds on, but does not repeat the information in Unpuzzling Your Past.
For the more advanced researcher, her Sleuth Book for Genealogists makes a great read, with lots of useful advice. This last book concentrates on research methodology and problem solving. (find in a library)

A classic: Val Greenwood's Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy (be careful to get the most recent edition, i.e. the 3rd. It is red.) (find in a library)


Best. Genealogy for the First Time: Research Your Family History 2003 (find in a library)

Rennick. Genealogy 101: How to Trace Your Family's History and Heritage (find in a library)

Rose & Ingallis. Complete Idiot's Guide to Genealogy, 2nd ed, 2005. The title might put you off, but this book is quite good. (find in a library)


AudioTapes of talks given at genealogy conventions are for sale and will provide you with some in-depth information given by the experts. One warning: at times the talk may refer to a presentation visible to the audience, but of course not captured on the tape.


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This page last updated January 10, 2007