Amy, but what if we don't have the elderly to go off of?What tools should we use?Or are we at a standstill?
Sam, thanks for the questions. I haven't been doing this long, but I hope what I list here for you can help you get started. Where to start and where to look?
- Family; they are the best starting point. Family members can fill in at least one or two generations of at least names and hopefully dates for you. However, the best part are the stories they will tell you. Write down all of the stories. They may come in handy later in finding your family members. However, don't just take there word for all of it. You may need to get documentaion because as I experienced they can give you incorrect information that sends you on a wild goose chase.
- Certificates; the next best thing. There are many types of certificates or government papers you can use to help you with you family tree. Birth certificates can give you the persons date and place of birth, but most importantly the maiden of the mother. Without the mother's maiden name you won't be able to go any further on her lineage. Death records will give you birth and death information as well as parents names if the person filling it knew that information. Social Secuity can tell you a little, and may even give the mothers maiden name. Landrecords, military and tax papers may also give you clues as to who your ancestor was and were they lived.
- Census Records; one of my favorite forms for genealogy. If you can aford it you can access the acctual forms on www.ancestry.com. It's about $199 per year subscription. They also have a two week free subscription which is what I used. They were started in 1790, but it wasn't until about 1870 that all the family members names were listed. Prior to that it was only the head of houshold listed. Census records will tell you where your family was living every ten years. Their ages, marrital status, place of birth, parent's place of birth, occupation, and more. With Census records you can write a little story about your family member.
These resources will get in you started on the next two to three generations. It gets a little more difficult past the 1870. I'll go into what you can do to contiue your research beyond that point in another post.