When deciding to start your genealogy quest, always begin with yourself. You are the best person to consult when it comes to writing historical data about yourself and your immediate family.
What information is important to record? Vital information should include a birth date, place of birth, parent names and their birthdates and places of birth, a home address, professions of each parent, etc. Most of this is listed on a birth certificate. Make a digital scan of your birth certificate, marriage certificate, and any other official documents that tell your life story. This should include a graduation certificate from grade school, high school, college, military training certificates and discharge papers, divorce finalizations and death certificates of spouses, children or your parents. Each paper tells a story.
Begin to transcribe the information listed on each of the papers that you have gathered as described in the previous paragraph. List every name and date exactly as it is written on the records, even if there are things that are not spelled correctly. You can always make footnotes where you can mention the error, and be sure to back up your comments with well sourced data. If you have many documents to transcribe, take your time to be very accurate. There is no rush or deadline when recording the information.
If you are married, find as many documents as you can to record the information about your spouse's life. If you have had more than one spouse, it is always nice to have as much information recorded on each one. Anyone who reads your family history years from now will appreciate every piece of information that you record. At times there may be information that you know, but are unable to find in a document. This might be a nickname, fact about a person's religious affiliation, or maybe even places that the person may have lived in the past before you met them. You can always record these as your personal comments, but make sure that you note who may have revealed the information to you, or where you may have heard or read about it. Leave as many clues as possible if you are not able to backup your comments with a document.
As with your spouse or spouses, record the same vital information about your children. This part will have to be kept current as your child grows and experiences each step in their educational and personal life.
Many forms are available to help you keep your lists of facts in an organized and neat manner. Search the internet for such forms that you may download and print. Websites such as www.familysearch.org , www.heritagequest.com, www.ancestry.com, etc. have these free to the public. Or you can make your own form in a Word or Excel document. This will allow you to customize your forms to adapt to the information that you have been able to collect.
Next month : February 2011 : Step 2 : How to Organize your Heritage History - Preserve the initial information so that it is very easy to refer to before you begin further family research.