It's always smart to have a game plan when it comes to researching your past. The trick is to start with the most recent generation and work your way backwards. Begin with yourself! Find a blank notebook to record your notes--teachers LOVE notebooks! Make sure you write down everything about yourself--JUST THE FACTS! Although it would be lovely to know that your favorite color is violet and you always enjoyed hang-gliding, right now we just need to know the facts about you. The other stuff will come later on. Here is a short list to help you, but feel free to add anything else you wish.
1. Your FULL birth name. It is imperative to write down your name exactly as it was given to you at birth. This is a helpful hint for when and if you research ancestors in Europe! It Italy, especially, women, even if they are married, will always be found under their maiden names. (Helpful Hint Alert!--ladies, when creating your own family trees, write your full MAIDEN name, not your married name.)
2. The day, month, and year of your birth. You will notice that professionals write it this way. So, instead of writing, for example: January 1, 2000, you would write it as: 1 January 2000, or 1 JAN 2000. This way, if you are researching ancestors from other countries, you will not be thrown off when you see a date written as "11/7/1850." This does NOT mean November 7, 1850 in Europe, it actually means, 11 July 1850! Not knowing that simple trick could set you back months in your research as it did for me when I first started.
3. If you happen to know the hospital you were born in, or the location of your birth, record that as well. Depicting town, city, state, and country will make researching easier because it concentrates in one specific area. There is a big difference between researching a relative in the "United States" and researching a relative in "Staten Island, New York, United States."
4. If you are Catholic, you should record the dates of your Baptism, First Holy Communion, Confirmation, etc. Most Catholic churches keep records of their parishioners past and present. You can request a copy of these sacramental certificates, but you may be asked to offer a small donation. Furthermore, you would have to request the certificate at the church in which you received the sacrament. If you practice another form of religion, notify your place of worship to see if there are any documents you can obtain.
5. Write the full names of your biological parents, if known, and any siblings that came from the union of your biological parents. Record birth dates and death dates.
You are ready to begin your pedigree chart! I, personally, enjoy using a fan chart, but you can create any configuration you want, as long as you understand the progression of it. Below is an example of the fan chart I made for one of my 3x-great-grandmothers. I can trace back her family to 1566!
Also, check out the link below for free, printable fan charts! Happy hunting!