For many, the first instinct is to jump on the computer, but if you can discipline yourself to do a little offline sleuthing beforehand, you'll ultimately go a lot further a lot faster.
Investigate the clues you've probably got tucked away in your attic, closets, and basement and call your older relatives (think of them as witnesses to your family history), and you'll avoid getting stumped or derailed early on. This chapter will offer ideas and strategies to help you get off to a solid start, as well as dodge common pitfalls.
Where Do You Want to Go?
A useful starting point is to ask yourself what you hope to accomplish. Do you want to learn more about the origins of your surname or everything you can about your family tree? Is your goal to identify all eight of your great-grandparents, all sixteen great-great-grandparents, or as many ancestors as possible?
Many are simply curious about the entertaining stories that might be found dangling from the branches of their family tree. … Finding an ancestor who missed the Titanic because of illness or helped build the Erie Canal will suddenly produce an insatiable thirst for knowledge about topics that seemed beyond tedious in your high school history textbooks.
How long will all this take? That's up to you. There's always another ancestor to research if you feel like it, and many enjoy the thrill of the hunt so much that they never want it to end.