The First Step- The Family
Many researchers, old as well as the new tend to simply overlook the earliest and best possible source for a good head start in their researching.
Before getting too involved with the websites, pay sites, and mailing lists~~
Take just a little time to look around you at your family.
If you are fortunate enough to have all of your relatives still living; approach (not attack, just approach) each of them and ask for any and all information that they may be able to remember about the family prior to themselves.
Write down the names; dates; relationships; places that they give you, no matter how slight. If you are lucky enough to find someone in the family who can or will relate "family stories/legends" then this is a special bonus.
Ask if these persons will write down the information, or better yet use a tape recorder and write it down yourself later. If these are persons that you converse with through an email-- SAVE THE MESSAGES.
Once you have perhaps talked with your mother or father, then if possible check with the uncles and aunts; then with any grandparents. Don't stop with the information from just one relative, each one may have different memories of events or one might remember a date that another doesn't.
If you have photographs of grandparents or others that maybe you cannot identify, see if these same persons above can determine who they are for you.
I cannot stress the following strongly enough-
DO NOT WAIT TO SPEAK TO ANY OF THESE PERSONS
As awful as the prospect is to consider, they are mortal and may not be around forever.
As a child, I watched my parents just "barely" miss golden opportunities for data when elderly persons "in the know" had a stroke and lost all memory.
The data that you gain from these persons will give you a better foothold when you begin really researching. Researching is a process of asking questions, receiving answers and then again finding out where the gaps are in the data to still find out. You will not know what questions to ask, if you don't know what you have.
Once you have as much information as you can possibly gain from these resources within the family you will want to record it in some logical fashion. The next entry will cover the topic of the various forms of keeping your records.