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Tips for Starting Your Family Research

Where to Start: 

  • Start with your parents, immediate family members, or family members who you know the most about then work backwards (for most people that would be your Great Grandparents).
  • Before starting your research, record and create a family tree - get all of the information that you know out and in writing.
  • Talk to family members about details they might remember (i.e. where relatives might have lived, time periods, names).
    • Look into family heirlooms and old boxes - a lot of family history was recorded in the back of family Bibles.
  • Keep track of what you found.

Keep in Mind: 

  • Not everything is digitized! You might have to contact institutions that have these records directly.
  • Names and other information can be misspelled. Sometimes you might not find a record in your search because a name has been incorrectly recorded or the transcription (that is helping you find these records) is incorrect. Often times, last name spellings were changed intentionally and evolved (or became more "Americanized") over time.
    • Keep in mind that nicknames were often recorded for those in the family who had the same name.
    • Remember to search for maiden names! 
  • There might not be information...
    • Vital Records were not properly kept in each state until the 1920s, so there might not be that much information out there.
  • Minority or immigrant populations were not documented well (or in some cases at all).
    • Records or information might have been kept in non-government places, such as churches, community groups, or through oral history.

Please note: The University of Delaware Library does not conduct research for you - most historical institutions do not provide this service. You can hire people to conduct this research for you - typically asking your local genealogical or historical society can help locate someone. 

Looking for the old research guide?

The Library had an extensive research guide on genealogy that have been used for years. In an effort to provide accessible formatting for our users, the old research guide for genealogy has been retired. Since it had many useful links and information, you can still access this guide by clicking on the link below: