Genealogy Research

How do I start?

  • Getting Started in Genealogy
    Learn how to start researching your family history.  This section features links to print and online tutorials, forms, and a list of genealogy terms for reference.
  • Handbooks and How-to Guides 
    This section lists general print and online resources for various age groups, types of records, as well as ethnic group-specific resources.
  • Services FAQ 
    Learn about how staff at the Henrietta Public Library can assist you in your genealogy research. 

Getting Started in Genealogy

If you are just beginning to research your family history, it is easy to feel overwhelmed.  We've assembled tips for getting started, basic principles you'll need to know, and a list of resources to get you on your way.

How do I start my genealogy research?

Begin your journey at home!

  • Talk to older relatives, and consider recording your conversation to gather stories and facts about their own older relatives.
  • Gather materials from your family, such as scrapbooks, military records, obituaries and other materials. Uncover basic facts about your own family and other family members from these sources. 
  • Find out and document vital statistics, such as birth, marriage, and death information, particularly from official government sources.

Basic Tips

  • Genealogy is not something that can be done in a day.  It takes much time and dedication.  Be patient. 
  • It is noticeably difficult to construct genealogy for more-recent time periods because many records are closed or unavailable due to legal and privacy restrictions.  Part of the goal in performing research at home with your relatives is to allow you to work backwards to the early 20th century, when records are generally more easily accessible. 
  • Full names, specific dates, and concrete geographical locations are indispensable to conducting further research.  Have this information before you visit the library to make your search easier and increase your chances of success.  Especially when you are starting out, the best place to acquire this information is from home sources.
  • Don't rule out an individual as your ancestor just because their name- first or last- is spelled differently than your family name currently spells it.  The spelling of names was not fully standardized until the twentieth century, and even then human error sets in, people have poor handwriting, or spell words phonetically. 

How-to Guides for Beginning Genealogists

Print How-to Guides

There are a number of aids for beginning genealogists, online and in print, as well as many societies, groups, and individuals who can also be helpful. 

  • Croom, Emily.  Unpuzzling your Past: A Basic Guide to Genealogy.  Whitehall, VA: Betterway Publications, 1989.
  • Hilton, Suzanne.  Who do you think you are? Digging Your Family Roots.  Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976.
  • Morgan, George G.  How to do everything with your Genealogy.  New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004.
  • Szucs, Loretto Denni.  The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy.  Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 2006.
Online Guides to Help Get You Started

There are many good websites that walk you through beginning genealogy research.  This is a selection of the best online tutorials, articles, and online classes. 


  • Free Genealogy Charts & Forms
    Free family tree forms, family group sheets, descendent charts.  Also, this site lists links to other sites that offer various forms. 
  • Pedigree Chart
    This chart starts with one person and moves back 4 generations.  This charts documents the direct line of one person. 
  • Family Group Chart
    This chart records information on a single family unit.  It includes a couple, their children and births, deaths, marriages, and burial places for each. 

Terms to Know

Glossary of Genealogy & Family History Terms
This site lists a wide range of genealogy terms for your reference. 

Handbooks and How-to Guides

There are a number of print and online guides to conducting genealogy research and specific aspects of genealogy, including capturing oral history interviews and preserving family memorabilia. 

Print Resources

There are many books available for use in the local history collection that cannot be checked out.  These include:

  • Colletta, John P.  They Came in Ships: A Guide to Finding Your Immigrant Ancestor's Arrival Record.  Provo, UT: Ancestry, 2002. 
  • McClure, Rhonda.  Digitizing Your Family History: Easy Methods for Preserving Your Heirloom Documents, Photos, Home Movies, and More in a Digital Format.  Cincinnati: Family Tree Books, 2004.
  • Nevius, Erin.  The Family Tree Guide Book to Europe: Your Passport to Tracing Your Genealogy across Europe.  Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 2003.
  • Smolenyak, Megan.  Trace Your Roots with DNA: Using Genetic Tests to Explore Your Family Tree.  New York: Rodale, 2004.
  • Witcher, Curt Bryan.  African-American Genealogy.  Fort Wayne: Round Tower Books, 2000. 

While the aforementioned books are to be used in the library, search the library catalog to look for titles of genealogy handbooks and how-to guides that can be checked out with your library card.   While the following search terms are samples, consider other ethnic groups and locations as keywords for searching:

  • Genealogy
  • Genealogy- Handbooks, manuals, etc.
  • Genealogy- Methodology
  • Indians of North America- Genealogy
  • New England- Genealogy

Internet Resources

  • Roots Surname List
    This site will help you locate other people who are researching the same name.  
  • Ancestor Hunt
    A directory website for free genealogy search engines.

Information about Records

With so many types of records available, it is difficult to ascertain what you may get from each type of record.  This list provides a brief overview of the types of records and resources you may uncover during your research.  To see what records are available in the local history collection pertaining to Henrietta, New York, browse by subject.

Cemetery Records

Cemetery records can provide birth and death dates, locations, and, occasionally, relationships to other people or service in the military or organizations. 

Census Records

Census records provide wide-ranging information about households.  However, this information varies by census year.  In general, census records may tell you who lived in a household, their ages and relationships to each other, occupations, and whether or not they owned property.  The census was first taken in the United States in 1790, and the most recent information available at this time is census year 1930 due to privacy restrictions. 

Church/Religious Records

Church/religious records encompass birth, death, marriages, membership lists and much more. 


City or suburban directories provide information about where people lived and their occupations.  They also detail where businesses were located in a given year.  Information for Henrietta, New York first appeared in the suburban directories in the 1950s. 

Family Histories

In some cases, family histories are uncovered that were compiled by previous generations of people, complete with charts.  Be sure to double-check and verify all of the information compiled by other persons. 


Images and other visual works can show you what people, places and things looked like, but also describe the conditions of the time. 

Immigration Records

Immigration records can provide information about when persons came into the United States and from where.


Maps can provide information about migration patterns, boundaries, old place names, and much more. 

Military Records

There are many types of military records.  Some provide information about the dates of service, rank, and unit for a serviceperson, or detail injuries and death. 


Newspapers provide for obituaries, marriages, and birth notices, and local news.  They can set the framework for what was happening in a particular place where ones family lived. 

Oral Histories

Interviews with persons capture wide-ranging or specific events and reflections on periods of time in history.

Vital Records

Vital records include birth, death, marriage and divorce records.  Many of these types of records are held by local government offices. 

Services FAQ

Does the staff of the Henrietta Public Library provide genealogy-related reference or research services?

Library staff does offer assistance with the use of the materials located in the local history collection.  The local history collection is accessible to all members of the public during library operating hours.  For those who cannot visit the library, the staff will provide reference service and limited research service.  However, the library does not offer in-depth genealogical research services. 

Does the library know of any person that will conduct genealogical research for me?

We suggest viewing the following resources that list genealogy reseachers:

Additional referrals for genealogical information service in Monroe County, New York