Family History Research:
How to Successfully Start—or Restart

a 4-week online course led by Paula Stuart-Warren, CG ® , FMGS, FUGA

March 2023 | March 4, 11, 18 & 25
Saturdays 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. Central

Did the recent holidays or last couple years at home make you think more about your family history?

Did you work on that family history a while back but now want to catch up or refresh your research?

No matter where you are on the path to discovering your family history, this course will assist you in best practices, provide updated resources, and share the joy of discovering the ancestors who came before you. Records are bountiful if you know all the places to find them. These records are more than names and dates—it’s a peek into our ancestors’ lives, their history, and the surrounding community. This course is U.S.-based, but much of the methodology also applies to non-U.S. research.

Course Content:

Week 1: Foundational Steps & Sources | Introduction to Online Resources | Record Analysis

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This session covers foundational steps and sources. We’ll start with some amazing, helpful websites—then it’s on to tips for gathering details and records from close and extended family members, learning how to analyze those items and items already in your possession.

We move on to ways to keep track of those names, places, ages, relationships, and other details, and ways to store them electronically or on paper. With this information, we’ll start our own family reference timeline. Next, we delve into the importance of state and federal censuses and where to find them online and elsewhere. Following that, we discuss online family trees, published family, town, and county histories and how they can provide clues. All these records aid in our research planning and what steps we take next.

Week 2: Migrating Families | Newspapers & City Directories | Courthouse Records

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We’ll look at migrating families and common U.S. migration routes, as well as reasons, maps, and records for these movements. We’ll talk about the value of old newspapers and city directories and where to find them. Then, we’ll discuss records related to courthouses and other state and county offices, including birth, death, and marriage records, naturalizations, and criminal and civil court records. We’ll discuss where these records are found today—online and in other places. We’ll add to our timeline and research plans.

Week 3: Organization Strategies | Probate, Land, Church & Other Records | Special Situations

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We’ll get back into organizing strategies and learn about some programs that may work with individual mindsets. Then, we’ll dive deeper into land and probate records. Church records of various religious denominations may provide details not found in other records. Also, we all have those special situations somewhere in our family trees—some good, some problematic. These situations include adoption, unknown parentage, guardianships, missing people, divorce, and imprisonment. Learn about some free search sites for locating records that may not be in the expected locations.

Week 4: Military Records | School Records | Continuing Education | DNA Testing

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Some of our ancestors may have served in the military or associated job. Records are phenomenal for many wars and during peacetime; records exist online, in archives, and with historical societies. Education was vital to some families and later became a requirement for all. We’ll learn about the types of school records and where to find them today. But what about your own education? We’ll cover genealogical continuing education and networking with societies, webinars, seminars, conferences, institutes, social media groups, libraries, and study groups. We’ll add in tips for solving a problem case, including when and how to hire a professional and an overview of ethics and copyright. We’ll conclude with a brief overview of DNA and where to learn more about this wonderful tool.


  • Access to four live 90-minute sessions via Zoom
  • Playback access to all sessions through June 25, 2023
  • Comprehensive handouts with session reminders, tips, annotated bibliography, and lists of helpful websites and tools
  • Brief homework assignments to help you apply what you’ve learned to your own research
  • Bonus sessions (30 minutes after Weeks 2-4) to interact with instructor / librarians and cover additional topics

$50 for Clayton Library Friends members
$75 for non-members (A one year membership is only $20 and will save you $25 towards the course registration.)

Course Technology:

Weekly sessions conducted via Zoom; document and video library hosted with Google Classroom.

Registrants will receive email with access instructions one week before the first class.

Visit the registration page to register online.

About the Instructor:

Paula Stuart-Warren

Paula Stuart-Warren, Certified Genealogist ® , FMGS, FUGA

Paula is a long-time internationally recognized genealogical educator, researcher, and consultant focusing on unusual resources, manuscripts, methodology, and analyzing records. She also specializes in railroad records, the WPA, and Native American research. She has spent extensive research time at libraries, courthouses, libraries, state archives, historical societies, and at various locations of the U.S. National Archives. She is currently a coordinator and instructor for the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh. She has presented courses for Research Write Connect Academy, Ancestry Academy, Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, Family Tree University, and continues to present virtual seminars and webinars across the U.S. and in Canada. She is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, of the Minnesota Genealogical Society, a former officer of the Association of Professional Genealogists, and has been a Board-Certified Genealogist since 1988.

She is descended from eight ancestral countries and has researched family connections across the U.S. and Canada. Her late father-in-law’s family was spread out across the south in many states from east to west. She currently has her own educational website and blog at and is enthusiastic about sharing knowledge and continuing education.

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