Family History Research guideline
To compile your full Family History:
1. Begin with what you already know. Write a brief history of yourself on a single sheet of 3-ring binder paper, including Date and Place of birth; Date and Place of marriage; Dates and schools attended; Dates and places worked. Children, parents, spouse, all with Dates and Places of birth. For deceased relatives, record Place and Date of death; and record the Name and Location of the Cemetery [In earlier times, you may find the same cemetery used for many members of the same family, and their uncles, aunts and cousins.]
2. Attempt to recreate the above dosier on EVERY Family member, using only one sheet of paper for each person. Record Aunts and Uncles (as well as brothers and sisters of Grand parents and G-Grand parents, because it is often those brothers that lead to the parents.) Keep these pages in 3-ring binder, so they can be moved around (to account for re-marriages and step-brothers and sisters; and noteworthy uncles and cousins.)
3. Ask your older relatives what they know (and what they think they know. Who holds the Family Bible and Family Photographs? Often Family Legends have a basis in fact: how the family got to America; where they lived in the Old Country.) Write down details from these interviews in a notebook. Record all of your leads and suspected family connections and useful sources of information in this notebook, so you have one place to go to find all of your Prospects and Leads. Label and date all information recorded (and where you found it) so it can be found again.
4. Create a Chart. Once you have the first two or three generations determined, record yourself, your Parents, and your Grand parents on a chart. Write small, and in pencil, but record full names, Year of birth, and Year of death. Place a number adjacent to the name that corresponds to that person's dosier in your 3-ring binder (Families tend to reuse first names; numbering James (1812 – 1871) as B42 avoids confusing him with James (1783 – 1857) who is Father of James B42, and is labelled James Buchanan B51.
5. Once you have gone back four or five generations, and feel that the Chart for those generations is complete, make copies; and give a copy of the Chart to each of your brothers and sisters (and put your name on it, so nieces and nephews know who to ask, years from now.)
Sources of Leads for extending the Family back in time:
1. Find-a-grave online burial records. Full name of ancestor is often recorded (but check for misspellings); and may include birth date, death date, and names of spouse, parents, siblings and children. These find-a-grave entries are not necessarily complete; but they provide Leads that can be verified and extended to find other family members.
2. Family Search. Use this Free site (provided by Mormon Church, and takes about 10 minutes to register online) to find every possible relative in your family, beginning with a parent or Grand parent. Double-check everything because other families (not yours) used the same names, and lived in close proximity to Your family. Once satisfied that a Relative has been found, create a dosier on that person; and record all possible Leads to other family members.
3. Census records. The U.S. Government (and each State Government) conduct Census every 10 years. These are freely accessible on familysearch.org and help confirm the prospective ancestor belongs to your family. [All years available prior to 1921.]
4. Family Bible. Many families that originated in Europe, UK, Scotland, Ireland maintained a Family Bible, and wrote Birth, Death, and Marriage records inside.
5. Church records. Especially in Europe, the records of Birth, Death and Marriage were kept by the local Church. Some of these Church records are online; others are only available by travel to Europe and view them in person. Some USA and Canada Church records are available online; and find-a-grave holds most of the Church Cemetery records. [Many Americans arrived in USA through Canada.]
6. New settlers arriving in America came by ship; and those ships mostly unloaded their passengers at Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore (and New York); or at Montreal, Lower Canada; or in the Canadian Maritime Provinces; or at Charleston, Savannah and New Orleans.
7. As new settlers established themselves, they tended to migrate further and further west. Those that arrived in Philadelphia (and other Northern Ports of Entry) tended to stay “in the North.” Those who arrived at Baltimore and Charleston and other Southern ports tended to stay “in the South.” As settlers took up new residence, they associated themselves with the County of the State in which they resided. Therefore, County Historical Associations (most are online) are excellent sources for Family historical information: Land ownership; military service; business records; Court records. Some County Historical Societies are better than others; but every place a relative lived is worth a look.
8. Military records. Americans (and British soldiers in Regiments of Foot who became Americans) fought in the French-and Indian War; and many were given Land Grants. These records are held by individual States; and most are available online. The Revolution of 1776 began by being fought by State Militias; and those records are held by State Archives (and most are available online.) Beginning 1778 the Continental Army became established; and those records are held by NARA. War of 1812 and Mexican War were fought by State military units; and those records are held by State Archives (and most are available online.)
9. Civil War: the South. Much (or most) of the Military records held in Richmond were burned in April 1865. And many County Court Houses across the South were destroyed during the war, and their records lost. However, Militia Units became State Guard Units. And States organized their own Regiments of Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery (so try State Archives online first, for example “Alabama Adjutant General Civil War” or “Georgia Adjutant General Civil War.”) When you determine what County your relative was recruited from, check that County Historical Society for their holdings. Some inspired people have constructed Regimental Histories and Rosters: check for those (and be aware of amalgamations and re-numbering that was prevalent with CSA regiments, so check all possible numbered regiments.) Once you have exhausted Family Search, and are ready to pay for a subscription to ancestry.com there is good news: ALL available Southern soldier records are accessible through ancestry.com with your subscription to Fold3. [Just double-check names, dates and regiment assignments to make sure the person being investigated belongs to your Family.]
10. Civil War: the North. Once you are certain that a particular soldier belongs to your Family, and you desire more information, acquire his Microfiche Film and Roll numbers from NPS Soldier and Sailor database online (and check the spelling of his name, as THAT spelling is used by NARA) and then contact National Archives using NATF Form 86 and include the Microfiche numbers in “Additional Information” box (order available online for about $35) to get that soldier's complete file sent to you: file can be as little as six or seven pages, or more than 100 pages, depending on length and breadth of service. Northern regiments were recruited by COUNTY, so check County Historical Society for additional records. “Illinois Adjutant General Civil War” and “Ohio Adjutant General Civil War” etc, etc provide access to records held by State Archives. And in the North, militias became Home Guards.
Hope this gets you started. Feel free to ask questions (I am more than happy to provide guidance, but I do not have time to do your research.)
All the best
N.B. I keep all of my Family History collection in a big plastic box to avoid water damage... actually TWO big plastic boxes.
Additional records of interest to Jim Davis:
https://archive.org/details/alabamaherhisto00brewgoog/page/n630/mode/2up 21st Alabama in "Brewer's Alabama"
https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-battle-units-detail.htm?battleUnitCode=CAL0021RI 21st Alabama history at NPS
https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-soldiers-detail.htm?soldierId=4456D594-DC7A-DF11-BF36-B8AC6F5D926A This H.G. Davis might be your relative. Confirm via Marengo, Baldwin or Mobile County records and/ or find-a-grave and/ or details at familysearch.org
https://archive.org/details/ohioatshilohrepo00lcohio/page/n143/mode/2up Ohio -- Shiloh Battlefield Commission.
https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000454243 Ohio Regiment rosters [19th OVI is in Volume 2]
https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-battle-units-detail.htm?battleUnitCode=UOH0019RI01 19th OVI at NPS
https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/15th_Regiment,_Mississippi_Infantry Use this entry point to Register for Free Family Search account.
https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-soldiers.htm#sort=score+desc&q=Thaddeus+Capron+55th+Illinois+infantry Click on Thaddeus Capron at NPS Soldier and Sailor Database to get Microfiche numbers for use on NARA NATF Form 86
Additional Hint: Do NOT pay for any information or service until you are CERTAIN that they hold information you want.