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Consider using a genealogy software program to store the information you collect. There are advantages to using specialized genealogy software instead of paper files, spreadsheets or word documents. For example, genealogy software allows the user to view genealogy information in a consistent manner and it provides opportunity to produce specialized analysis and reports with relative ease. The better genealogy software programs will leverage your research even further by analyzing your information for useful insights (such as relationships between people in families) and provide powerful tools to improve your research (such as calendar calculators and Soundex calculators).

• Choosing the right genealogy software program is an important step in getting the most out of your genealogy research. Take the time to do your own analysis to determine which genealogy program meets your needs. Perhaps the best way to do this is to download a couple of these programs from the internet (the better ones have a free trial period, usually 30 days, at no obligation) and take them for a test run. Remember that you will be spending several hundred hours working with this genealogy program, so it is worth your while spending the time selecting the program that will be right for you.

• Although there are some free genealogy programs available over the internet, the better programs need to be purchased. Usually they cost less than $40, which is a reasonable investment considering the amount of time you will be working with the program. One word of warning: try to avoid software programs that contain long lists of features that either don’t work well or have questionable value. Instead, determine which features are most important to you and then evaluate each program for these features, weighing each feature on a scale from 1 (poor) to 4 (excellent). It will quickly become evident which program is right for you.

• Finally, a special word needs to be said about collecting personal information on living relatives. Items such as dates of births, home addresses and other data on living relatives can be used by criminal enterprises for such things as identity theft. Do not underestimate this risk. As well, it is important to remember that when a living relative provides such information about themselves to you, they own the information. You have a duty and care to protect that information. This means not providing this information to anyone (including any internet site, regardless of that site's privacy policy) without the explicit permission of the relative who provided the information.

Once you have done some research on your family and entered the information into a software program, you can achieve a much better appreciation of your ancestors. They start to become more than just a collection of names and dates. This is one reason why genealogy is such a popular hobby that can provide so many hours of enjoyment. Good luck and remember to have fun!

Note: If you really want to jump right in and begin researching your ancestors on the internet, the best place to start is Ancestor.com, who has the largest genealogy databases on the planet. Their site contains many millions of records from censuses, birth records, marriage records, etc.. Just enter your name below and click "Start a tree" to begin. Happy hunting.

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Further Reading

Why Genealogy is Important

Google Limitations on Genealogy Search

Ten Effective Strategies for Building a Family Tree

Top 100 Genealogy Websites for 2013

The Key to Understanding Family Relationships