The purpose of this subject guide is to provide basic information on beginning a genealogy project for Kentucky families. Even though the resources in this guide are geared to Kentucky, the suggested subject searches can be modified by replacing the state, city or county to create relevant searches for other states or countries.
Genealogy research requires knowledge of a large variety of records and resources, many of which are unique to genealogists. This guide will attempt to give users information necessary to find and use the appropriate records. One of the best handbooks for records available in Kentucky is Kentucky Ancestry, by Roseann Hogan (University Archives or Main Collection F450 .H64 1992).
Unlike many research projects genealogy research begins at home rather than in a library. It is essential for a new researcher to begin their research with their family members. The farther you can trace your family through personal knowledge the easier it will be to locate information in a library.
A good beginner's handbook such as First Steps in Genealogy: A Beginner's Guide to Researching Your Family History, by Desmond Walls Allen (Main Collection CS16 .A454 1998) or Complete Idiot's Guide to Genealogy, by Christine Rose and Kay Germain Ingalls (Main Collection CS16 .R66 1997) can be very helpful guides. A subject search for United States Genealogy Handbooks, manuals, etc. can also help locate other basic handbooks. The shelves can also be browsed virtually from the catalog to locate other related materials.
It is also helpful to be familiar with major historical events to know what records to look for. For example, an individual born in 1842 could not possibly have served in the Revolutionary War, but he very likely did serve in the Civil War and there may be records related to that service that could be helpful. Also historical events such as war and drought drove migration to and from various regions. Understanding the significance of the 1848 Irish Potato Famine may help track your family. A good encyclopedia such as the Encyclopedia Americana at Grolier Online will help. (This resource is available only to EKU students and employees unless you are accessing this page from campus.) The Kentucky Encyclopedia is also available online or in various places in the EKU libraries (F451 .K413 1992) and could be helpful.
Start with yourself. Print off a copy of an ancestry chart and write down your name and everything you know about yourself–date and place of birth, parents and everything you know about them. Talk to your parents, grandparents or other family members who can fill in blanks in the information you are compiling. Don't concentrate only on direct ancestors. Knowing siblings can help verify and prove relationships. The family group sheet can help keep track of family members.
Look for family Bibles, correspondence or family cemetery plots to get additional information.
Document your sources. That way if you have questions later, you know where the information came from.
Organize your research notes. Use ancestor charts and family group sheets to record information.
Know and understand the records you are researching. For example the US census is a picture of a family at a specific place and time. It was compiled every ten years beginning in 1790.
Don't rely on the research of others. This is especially true if the research doesn't cite sources. Use it as a starting point, but verify everything.
Understand the history of the area you are researching. You won't find a birth certificate for someone born at Fort Boonesboro in 1776. 1852 was the first year that birth and death records were kept in Kentucky. Books like Kentucky Ancestry by Roseann Hogan are good resources for this type of information.
Don't focus on just names, dates and places. Learn about the people you're researching and make them come to life.