Before you start searching databases and going through census roles, begin by writing down everything you know about your family. Speak with your relatives to find out what they know about the history of your ancestors. Look through your own files for photographs, letters, family Bibles, birth certificates, etc. Ask your relatives if they have similar records that might give you clues about your family history. Once you create a family tree with your knowledge, then start researching to confirm information and trace it further back.
For the truly green family tree maker, a few basic "how to" books might be of use. Most of these are available in call number range of CS16 through CS49 in both the Reference-Virginia collection, located on the 1st floor, as well as in Swem's main stacks. Here are a few examples:
Because of America's past of slavery, tracing back the roots of African-American families presents many unique challenges for genealogists. There are a number of books out there to help, several of which are available in the E185.96 section of Reference-Virginia. Here are a few examples:
If your family is from Virginia, we also have a number of specific guides for doing research for the state:
If you are already an experienced genealogist looking to go deeper, you might consider examining these comprehensive resources: