If you've made genealogy your hobby, chances are you've hit a roadblock at least once or twice. Oh sure, if you're related to Elvis Presley or an American president, there are entire lineages at your fingertips available on the Internet. The rest of us amateur genealogists will need to accept that creating a family tree is a journey which almost always includes some bumpy roads.
There are some general genealogy sites on the Web that can beginners can use to troubleshoot their way into a more extensive lineage.
Going back in time in a family tree is a common place where problems in identifying relatives can begin. There are several routes you can take to find your ancestor's birth and death years. The Social Security Death Index at Ancestry.com is a good starting point. While the index may not always have an exact day of death, it usually can provide the day and year of birth if your ancestor had a social security number, which can help you narrow down your research to determine if the person is really a relative.
Another source you can use to help you find a relative's date -- and place -- of birth are the United States census records. They are available for rent from the National Archives and Records Administration. NARA uses the Soundex system to organize the individual reels of census microfilm. Use the Soundex Coding Guide to quickly find your ancestor's correct code.
Once you have the correct Census microfilm, this can help you through other common genealogy problems. Census records can reveal the country your ancestor was born in, what he or she did for a living, and the year he or she was naturalized.
You can search Ellis Island's online ship manifests to find your ancestor's record, which can list a place of residence, marital status, and the ship he or she sailed on to America, along with some additional biographical information.
One big problem for amateur genealogists is finding ancestors' maiden names. This USGenWeb article lists 17 ways to find a maiden name. Death certificates and marriage records are also helpful. The state your ancestor lived in may have a record of her death or marriage, which should list her maiden name as well as her father and her mother. Both Cyndi's List and RootsWeb have pages with lists of individual state resources. Cyndi's List also has a section regarding marriage records.