There are thousands of volunteer genealogical societies worldwide that can help you start your search. Websites such as Cyndi's List (www.cyndislist.com) contain thousands of links to get you started.
The most highly rated genealogical software programs retail for about $30, with names such as Legacy, Family Tree Maker and Ancestral Quest.
"Talk to your parents, and the oldest people you can find in your family. Ask them very specific questions. Names of places, birth dates, if they have any newspaper clippings," advises my family's resident genealogist, Michael Pertain. When elder family members pass away, they take with them an important piece of the puzzle.
Check online state archives, census records, obituaries, newspaper clippings and other sources of information. Remember to respect other people's privacy when publishing personal information on websites and in databases.