Tackle the home front first
Gather all the information and documents about yourself and your living relations
Work backwards in time
Starting with yourself, then back your parents, their parents and so on. Dismiss any temptation to try and find links with famous people with the same surname as you. There may not be any links at all and you can waste time. If there is any such link it will eventually reveal itself!
Record every piece of information you find
Organise yourself into a methodical way when researching any particular aspect, always documenting what you find. Make notes of what you discover and most importantly, write everything down, especially references. You may need this information when ordering certificates or accessing from a directory source.
Should you research more than one Family name?
It is natural to start by tracing your surname, that is your 'paternal' line initially. However you will make more progress with some ancestral lines than others. After all the task increases for every generation you reach with your research. Aim to find your 16 great-great-grandparents and research your 'paternal' line. You are in control so follow your heart!
Start drawing up a family tree
If you've been documenting all the information as I recommended at the start of your research, you will need to have some way in presenting your findings visually. By presenting this information in a tree form, you will find there are gaps that need to be investigated.
Check if any other relative is researching your ancestors
In the course of your research you may find there are other family relatives who have also been researching their family history. In addition there are other organisations who have information relevant to your family on the internet. These organisations may be local family history groups, or Genealogy Societies who may have researched or have on file information regarding a name you are interested in.
Interview as many living relatives as possible
As you progress with your research, unknown relatives start to emerge who may possibly still be alive. Try and trace their where they may be living and make contact with them. More documented information may become available from this new relative.
Visit your local library and or reference library
Local libraries and archives hold a vast amount of published records, indexes or reference books covering the local area. This is another form of research where you can find more specific in formation about your ancestors.
Explore documents at records offices
This is similar to the previous area of research. However the information is not open to the public. Records will be found using the internet and subsequent references used to acquire the necessary printed documents. A fee is usually required to purchase this printed information.
Plan to visit places found in your research
You will have gained a vast amount of information regarding your ancestors. You may want to find more about where they were buried, where they lived, or maybe to visit relatives. This can prove to be very productive in continuing your research and fill in some more of the gaps in the family tree.
I hope theses research basic principles have assisted in your quest to successfully produce your family history project. This fascinating hobby is so worthwhile as an education in local history which can be passed onto your children and grandchildren. Did you involve them in this project? Why not make the whole experience by turning it into a Family History book.