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.

Beginning Your Family History Research

Beginning Your Research

Search our Catalog by Keyword for: genealogy manuals.

  • 929.1 POW  The Everything Guide to Online Genealogy (3rd ed.).
  • 929.1 Bre  Genealogy Offline: A Beginner's Guide.
  • 929.1072 ROS. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Genealogy (3rd ed.).
  • 929.1 ALL. Family History Detective: A Step-By-Step Guide to Investigating Your Family Tree.
  • 929.1 CRO. Unpuzzling Your Past (4th ed.).
  • 929.1 MEL. Family History 101.

Also try these quick and easy genealogy books in the Children's Department:

  • j929 ORR. How to Research Your Ancestry.
  • j929 HIN. Basic Genealogy for Kids.
  • j929 GAG. Using Technology to Find Your Family History.
  • j929 LEA. Design Your Family Tree.

Please visit A Young Person's Guide to Genealogy for more resources.

Primary Sources

As your family's historian, you will spend most of your time tracking down the records produced by and about your ancestors during their lives. Called "primary sources", these documents include birth & death certificates, family bibles, military records, and more. The following resources can help you locate these records:

  • 629.3 KEM NCC. International Vital Records Handbook (6th Ed.).
  • FamilySearch Research Wiki offers information on how to find, use, and analyze records of genealogical value.
    Go to:
  • See our other genealogy research guides for more details on specific types of records.
    Go to:
Where to Write for Vital Records


The library subscribes to these databases:

  • Ancestry Library Edition includes actual images of nationwide census records, census indexes, vital records, military records, and too many other sources to list. Available In-Library Only.
  • FamilySearch: Large collection of original records and indexes. Free account required.
    A Family History Center is located at 2710 Redbud Drive, Gastonia.
                                 Go to:
  • Fold3 includes US military records, stories, photos, and personal documents of those who served.
                      Go to: Log into Fold3 with your library card.
  • HeritageQuest includes census records, books, and some government and military records.
                                 Go to:  Log into NC Live with your library card.
    • See HeritageQuest: FAQs for information on the contents of the database and tips on how to use it.
      Go to:
  • African American Heritage ProQuest African American Heritage includes Federal Census, Marriage and Cohabitation Records, Military Draft and Service Records, Registers of Slaves and Free(d) Persons of Color, Freedman's Bank, and more.
    Go to:
  • ProQuest Digital Sanborn Maps: North Carolina provides digital access to large-scale Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of North Carolina towns and cities, searchable by address and GPS coordinates.
    Go to:  Log into NC Live with your library card.
  •  ProQuest Historical Newspapers: North Carolina Collection has 3.5 million pages of digitized content from over 1,000 N.C. county newspapers.
    Go to:  Log into NC Live with your library card.


Try these websites for free genealogy information on the Internet:

  • FamilySearch: Large collection of original records and indexes. Free account required.
    A Family History Center is located at 2710 Redbud Drive, Gastonia.
                                 Go to:
  • Rootsweb: Thousands of pages of genealogical information, mailing lists, research guides, etc. You do not need an Ancestry subscription.
    Go to:
  • USGenWeb Project: A page for every state and county.
    Go to:
  • WorldGenWeb: For finding resources outside the U. S.
    Go to:
  • Cyndi's List: A famous directory of genealogy sites.
    Go to:
  • Linkpendium: A collection of resource links, neatly organized by surname and by location.
    Go to:
  • PERSI (Periodical Source Index) is a subject index for genealogy and local history periodicals which provides citations for obtaining articles.
    Go to:
  • DigitalNC: Explore the history and culture of North Carolina through original materials from cultural heritage repositories across the state.
    Go to:

DNA Testing

Learn about the different types of DNA tests for genealogy and the ethical standards of testing for DNA.

Search our Catalog by Keyword for: genetic genealogy.

  • 929.107 SOU Your DNA guide, the book : step-by-step plans to connect you with your family using your DNA (2020)
  • 929.107 WEI The adoptee's guide to DNA testing : how to use genetic genealogy to discover your long-lost family (2018)

Charts and Forms

Organize and interpret your research with these charts and forms:

  • National Archives Charts and Forms
    Go to:
  • Family History Forms from the Mid-Continent Public Library's Midwest Genealogy Center.
    Go to:
  • Ancestry Charts and Forms from includes ancestral charts, family group sheets, and blank Census forms.
    Go to:
  • Relationship Chart by Alice J. Ramsay shows the relationship in each box is what that person's relationship would be to you.
    Go to:
  • Cousin Chart—Family Relationships Explained by Jessica Grimaud shows how to determine your cousin relationships.
    Go to:

Hints & Tips

When using a search engine like, try using the following search pattern:

  • "John Smith" OR "Smith, John" (The "or" must be capitalized.)


Genealogy "How-To" Videos

See this extensive guide compiled by the Alamance NC Public Library.
Go to:



Author: Gaston County Public Library
Title: Beginning Your Family History Research
Revised: 28 August 2021

┬ęCopyright 2021, Gaston County Public Library. All Rights Reserved.