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HMCPL Special Collections

HMCPL Special Collections is the community's archive. We empower individuals to seek their past, explore Huntsville and Madison County, and connect with history.

How to Start Your Genealogy

The question we most often get asked is "How do I start researching my family?" 
The quickest answer we can give is "Start with yourself and what you already know, and then work your way backwards."

The longer answer involves providing you with the resources that can help you make discoveries about your family. This includes looking in a multitude of places and through piles of old pieces of papers. Going to new places and reading about your past sounds fun right?!

Brief tutorial

Begin with what you know– Family members, family stories, and pictures and documents you already have are the best place to start. Pay particular attention to names, dates, and places and carefully record this information in an Ancestral Chart.

Do your research– Take the information you have and try to expand on it. Genealogy books, local Family Files, newspapers, and official documents such as birth, marriage, and death certificates can all confirm what you already think you know and give you more information to continue your research. See the list of resources available to you through the library for ideas of where to look.

Fill in the blanks– Once you have the basics down, you will likely notice some missing information in your records. Whether it’s a family member who seemingly disappeared or a relative whose name no one can recall, there are valuable resources online that can help you solve your family mysteries. See the list of databases available to you through the library for details on accessing these sites.


Getting Started with Genealogy


The Special Collections Department is always available to answer questions and offer suggestions on furthering your research.  Local genealogy groups and online forums are also a great way to meet fellow researchers and learn more about the wonderful world of genealogy.