When newbies start their research, I often hear "oh, this is so easy. I just link up my name to my parents, and so on and so on. What's the big deal?" As they dig further and further, they stumble on a few dead ends, adoptions or remarriages and then their simple record keeping schemes fall apart.
The Ancestry.com First Steps tutorial says, "Most genealogical experts agree that the first step one should take in a genealogical research project is to sketch out whatever knowledge is available on a given family."
The most common approach to this is using Family Group Sheets. That's right, before you even install one of the popular software packages, you should be writing down the information. If for no other reason than for safe keeping. And, unless you have a laptop, the software will do you no good when you're out visiting relatives or in the library.
Here are a couple of examples:
Pick a form you like, or create your own. Either way the Family Group Sheet is an execellent guide to accurately recording information about your ancestors. The forms helped me by highlighting additional questions I should be asking my relatives.
Numbering Systems in Genealogy
An article by Richard A. Pence.
Family Tree Magazine - Download Forms
A variety of research forms available in self-extracting files.
Ancestry Corner Reference Library - FREE Forms
These forms require the Adobe Acrobat reader.
The Unpuzzling Your Past Workbook : Essential Forms and Letters for All Genealogists
A book by Emily Anne Croom.