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Hunter Library
Research Guides
Western Carolina University

Genealogy: Home

This guide lists and describes resources that can be used for genealogical research. Use the tabs to navigate.


This guide will help you in your research of family history and ancestry by providing the tools to search genealogical information. These tools include databases, websites, immigration records, newspaper resources, books, links to historical maps, etc.

What you need before you start

1. A clue! Or as many clues as you can gather. You will continue to gather these as you research. The easiest bet is to start with a male ancestor who was the head of his household in the USA before 1940 and work from there.

Other Clues to Gather:

  • Full names (you may need to search multiple spellings and brainstorm possible nicknames)
  • Dates: birth, death, marriage, etc. Even approximate date ranges will help.
  • Other names within the family such as spouse and children.
  • Places: Birthplace and/or where the person lived. You will want to know both the county and city/township names.

2. Realistic expectations. Research is messy. Genealogy and family research is even messier! You will be gathering clues and piecing them together to get a bigger picture. You may not be able to access everything you wish to, given that this is just a semester-long course and a lot of information is unobtainable online.

3. Patience. You will probably hit dead ends, find illegible documents, and go in circles. That's part of the fun?!

4. A critical eye. Try to find the best quality sources to document what you find. Most genealogy sources, even official documents like the census, can be problematic; the key is to not rely on one source alone--build your case with multiple sources.  Watch out for family legends that sound too good to be true!

5. An idea of what kinds of sources are out there. A lot of ancestral information can be pieced together with census information, vital records, church records, and other documents.  Some families already have their genealogies published online (or in print); the quality of these varies widely--good genealogists will document their sources so you can track back to the original documents.  

6. A method of keeping track of what you found. Write down your sources and important details. Ancestry has some downloadable charts and templates to help you stay organized.

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