So you want to find your ancestor and who they were? Genealogy is a HOBBY and once you get started it can be an on going project, if taken seriously.
What do I do first?
First you begin with yourself listing birth date, all those important dates in your life. (marriage, divorce, graduation, residences, etc.)
Then list your mother and father and all those dates, birth, marriage, death, and begin to answer WHO, WHAT, WHY AND WHEN about your family.
IMPORTANT: If any of your aunts, uncles, grandparents, gr aunts and uncles, cousins are still living NOW is the time to visit and begin asking questions. Asking all those important questions. Record, if possible, the interview or be sure to write everything down and begin a filing system. Stories of the past have a way of changing facts over time. Use these as your stepping stones into your research.
Start putting together all the photographs you can find and write their names on the back. If a family member doesn't want to give up the photo, take and make a copy on a copier and then return to the owner.
Now, you might want to consider purchasing a genealogy software such as, Family Tree and begin putting your information into the computer. A computer is not necessary but keeping copies of everything is important. Be sure to write down how where or who you got the information. Having a genealogy program in your computer helps with all those questions you should be asking. (Be sure to backup your files)
IMPORTANT - Just writing down names and dates doesn't really tell you what your ancestors was like. Ask what kind of house did they live in? when did they move and why? What did your father or grandfather have as an occupation? What were living conditions like during their lifetime? All these questions help you in your searches. Knowing what your ancestor was like and how they might have suffered bring you closer to them as real persons.
Eventually you will find that an ancestor was not born in America. Of course, there are all types of web sites for you to wander through. BUT, be careful, much of what you find on a web site has not been verified and is only tradition or hearsay. Don't take anything for granted. Verify this information yourself. True genealogy is proving your research and will help you and others down the line with your research.
The further back you go in your research you may find brothers or sisters spelled their last names (surnames) different. This happens quite a bit especially if they immigrated from European countries. When arriving into America many of the names were anglicized. Some kept the old country spelling others changed for easier use. Remember census takers or immigration people often just wrote down the name as he heard it pronounced. Now you are ready to begin your German-Speaking Research.