A layman's approach to Genealogy
Your genealogy is unique to you.
One of the first things you should do is to speak to elderly relatives and ask them about their memories of parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts - getting from them as much information as you can possibly obtain. Ask for dates, places, professions, any interesting events in the lifetime, and indeed anything at all which will provide you with material to relate to the printed records which are kept by virtually every country.
Your aim is to get back to at least 1910 if possible, particularly if your ancestors were still in the UK or Scotland, but even if they were in America or Australia or any part of the world there are always restrictions on how near the present time you can search for peoples’ information. This is particularly true in Europe and Great Britain.
"Genealogy is like a mirror. Look into it and pretty soon interesting faces begin to appear"
A few suggestions to start your research journey
Your first port of call will be birth marriage and death records, then census records, then wills, (called testaments in Scotland), rental documents, deeds and other official documents, as well as historical sources for the locality in which they lived.
Once you have exhausted official records of births marriages and deaths, you will delve into parish registers, which tend to be less detailed but which provide information on location and often the trade of the father.
Extending your search
At some point you will find that the records are patchy or even non-existent.
You may then decide that is now time to try linking with others through DNA. For surname studies you have to test the Y chromosome of an individual who presently bears the name you are interested in.
Elsewhere on this site is more information about the MacGregor DNA project. You may also find that you can connect with relatives that you had no knowledge of through tests which focus on the X chromosome and are called, for example, Family Finder.
The Society offers advice and sometimes research on members’ behalf, particularly where the information is sketchy or ambiguous.