Genealogy is YOUR story--where your people came from and what led you to this place and time.  However, it is also integrated into and the story is affected by historical events.  It is important as you enter into the world of genealogy for the first time to do so with a historian's mind.  Be careful to keep proper notes, cite all your sources (think critically about things unsourced), and make certain you credit those whose data you use.  

Despite the plethora of computerized "gadgets" out there, I recommend beginning with paper and pencil until you get the feel for what you are doing.  Only invest money into computer software and digital gadgetry once you have mastered the basics of genealogy.  Therefore, I have included links below to help you find some basic forms to get you stared and the 2015 Software Reviews of the common types of Genealogy Software available to you once you are ready to commit to the hobby.


Here is a link to blank forms you can use from  These forms include Family Group Sheets, Pedigree Charts, Blank Census forms, etc.  

If you want to put your family tree ONLINE, you can use, or one of those types of services, BUT if you want computer SOFTWARE, it depends on which system you are on---Windows or Mac.  The software varies widely by ease of use, functionality, and PRICE, but the 2015 Software reviews can be found here for Windows and Mac.

Also, I am not a real fan of across the board DNA testing.  While it has its uses, for those unfamiliar with how it works, it muddies the waters more than it helps at times. Many of my clients contact me to ask for help in deciphering their results. Additionally, many people do not understand that this DNA is often shared with pharmaceutical companies and others for whom the DNA testing facility has partnered, so your DNA is not only between you and the testing facility.  That bothers me, frankly, but if you enter into this in an informed manner, you may decide it's an acceptable risk.  Therefore, to help clear up some things BEFORE you take the test, I want to direct you to The Legal Genealogist's blog for 2015 on the topic.  This will give you a great deal of background to help you get the most bang for your buck.  You'll also notice she does not share my reservation about taking DNA tests.  Read her article and begin informing yourself HERE.

6th cousins 3 times removed?  Removed from what?  Cousins are still children of aunts/uncles and removed means which generation they were born in, but it gets very confusing.  I try to steer clear of the charts myself, so I use an online calculator for it.  The Cousin Calculator is a simple in browser tool that you enter the relationships of two individuals into and it calculates their "relationship status" for you.  


Some states have online databases of records.  West Virginia is one that is starting to put their older vital records (birth, death, marriage) records online. This is an incomplete list at present, but it is a work in progress so check back frequently to see what they add.  Also, you can generally see a scanned copy of the original record and you can then take a screen shot of this or download the image and have it with your data.  That link appears below.

West Virginia Vital Records ONLINE (work in progress)

Samples of writings from my own family searches:

JA and Alice Duke

Works in Progress

Here is an example of one of my business WORKS IN PROGRESS that will be turned over to the Dickinson Family Association when finished.

" Reverend Dr. Cornelius Evarts Dickinson: Congregationalist Minister" --focuses on the life and writings of Dickinson, a minister in Washington County Ohio during the Gilded Age.  (co-author:  Elizabeth Bradley)