Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Family History and Genealogy : Getting Started

Whether you are researching a historical figure for a paper, ordained minister, or the religious history of your own family, this guide will point you in the right direction and provide resources in the Divinity Library for genealogical study

Starting Your Research

Decide what you need to learn.

  • Born?
  • Place?
  • Married?
  • Place?
  • Died?
  • Place?

Pick one of a "person of interest" and try to identify needed information (document pertinent information on other relatives/historical figures as you find it).

Connecting the Past

Select records to search.

  • There are two types of genealogical records.
  • Compiled Records: These records have already been researched by others, such as biographies, family histories.
  • Original Records: Records that were created at or near the time of an event, such as; birth, marriage, death or census records.
  • Be sure to check computer resources that are available.
    4. Obtain & search record:
    • Many local libraries have good genealogical materials, especially for the surrounding areas of the library's location. Check Family History Centers, they are an excellent place to obtain records.
    • Look at a broad time period. Check for spelling variations, write down your results, document your source, even if you come up empty-handed (it will keep you from checking the same source again).
      5. Use your information.
    • Evaluate what you've found. Did you find the information that you were looking for? Is that information complete?
    • Copy the information to family group sheets and pedigree charts.
    • Organize the information. Use a system that works for you, i.e.: cards, notebooks, or computer.
    • Share your information with interested family members.

Welcome to the Family History and Genealogy Page

This guide is by no means an exhaustive list of resources for genealogical research. The goal here is to make researchers aware of many free online websites and to highlight the genealogy-related resources available in the Divinity School Library, Duke Libraries, and The State Library of North Carolina. 

Identify what you know about your family.

  • Gather information about family members by using family Bibles, journals, letters, newspapers, obituaries and ask relatives.
  • Write what you know about your ancestors on a pedigree chart. Start with yourself as # 1.
  • Write "surname" in all caps.
  • List the dates: i.e. (08 Mar 1895) instead of 3/8/1895.
  • Write places in order: City/Township/County/State
  • Think about any ways your family might have interacted with the federal government (military service, property and property ownership, naturalization, immigration, etc.)