The following are some brief notes and sources for beginners just starting genealogy research. Many books have been written for beginning genealogy researchers and various ones are available at local public libraries. There are also many excellent (and free!) resources on the internet to help beginners get started including a number of narrative introductions and tutorials. Just a few of them are listed following and more can be found through a Google search. This quick sheet is not a substitute for those more extensive tutorials. There are also now a plethora of blogs and newsletters that contain suggestions, help and tips for the beginners. Those are too numerous and varied to list here and are of most benefit to those who have had some initial experience.
Following are just a few initial getting started tips that probably should have further explanation, but I don't have time right now.
Free (!) advice for beginners
Here is further discussion of the subject: About.com - Filling Out Genealogical Forms
These blank forms, along with filled-out examples found by Google-searching the internet, demonstrate the concept of family group documentation. However, most people migrate (quickly or over time) to using a genealogy computer program to record their family information. The software combines the functionality of the family group and pedigree charts. More about this later.
Many more forms of various kinds and purposes are also available for free at: Charts and Forms - Rootsweb (PDF)
There are various other genealogy software programs on the market for sale that may have features and facilities that may be useful to more advanced researchers. Information can be easily transferred from PAF to any of the others, so one will not be "stuck" with PAF forever.
More about LDS Family Search.
If your earliest ancestor lived before 1900, there is a possibility someone has put information about that person on the internet. Try a Google search, including name and limiting data such as birth year, death year and place(s).
Rootsweb World Connect has one of the largest searchable collections of user-submitted family trees and your ancestor may already be listed. However beware... Most of the trees there do not show any documentation of the sources of the information. Further, many of the trees show ancestral links that are either totally unproven or have been proven to be incorrect. You will also see extensive duplication of names and families. People simply copy the trees from someone else and do not bother to check the accuracy. So use these trees, along with all online information, with caution and skepticism and use as clues only.
Over the years, a number of companies that sold paid subscriptions to family history information have come and gone. Many of those have been of limited or no value and some turned out to be outright frauds, especially those that solicit from spam. So beware. As of this writing (June, 2009) Ancestry.com is the oldest and most substantial of the paid subscription service for genealogy, though they have substantial warts. (Their indexing and transcriptions of documents has been very sloppily done so if one does not find a purported record through Ancestry.com, it does not necessarily mean the record does not exist.) Others have arrived on the scene, but they are of most value to advanced researchers only. Heritage Quest, which provides census indexes, census images and PERSI no longer sells individual subscriptions to the general public, but is available through most local public libraries. Further, Family Search has been making remarkable progress in digitizing important genealogical information and putting it online - for free. This is a key website for one's research. However, be forewarned that as of this writing (June, 2009) the website is expected to be "reorganized" so there may be some confusion and pre-existing guides on the internet will be obsoleted.
So, the best place to begin genealogical research is at home. Document what you do know, go through old family materials and talk to other family members, especially the elderly.
Simple, straightforward website showing links to key genealogical resources on the internet, including beginner tutorials. Much easier to navigate and use in the beginning than the more in-depth, complex sites such as Cyndi's list.
Very basic guide. Note that many of the microfilms described on this page have been indexed and images are available online. Online records are described in various other places on the website.