As you research your forefathers consider some of the tips below to help you in your search.
Keep a Timeline. A timeline can help you to narrow down what records you need to find and keep track of what you have found. You can make your own timeline in a number of ways. I like to combine my timeline with a research log by creating a table in my word processing or spreadsheet program. Data that can be part of the table include date of event, event name, source and comments. Using a timeline also helps remind you of important events that were happening in that time period (like wars that he may have served in). It can also help to remind you where you have searched.
Conduct a Reasonably Exhaustive Search. Remember that not everything is or will be on the Internet. Identify all repositories that might hold information about your ancestor. A family history research project starts with a thorough Internet search but it also must include a search of repositories like public, state and university libraries, archives, museums and historical and genealogical societies. Most of these places have some sort of online presence so their card catalogs can be searched online or you can contact the archivist/librarian for more information. To find repositories in the area your ancestor lived in try websites like Libcat: Library Resources on the Internet and Repositories of Primary Sources.
When Searching Surnames, Be Creative! Standardized spelling of surnames is a recent phenomenon. Our ancestor's surnames were spelled in creative ways by the individuals themselves and by others. Compound that with the fact that modern day indexers/transcribers may be unfamiliar with certain surnames or may have difficulty reading writing on older documents and finding your ancestor can be like a search for a needle in a haystack! Make sure that as you are researching that you utilize Soundex and wildcard searches as well as trying different ways to spell your ancestor's name.
Don't Assume Anything. It can be easy for us to assume that we will find our ancestor in certain records or that certain activities didn't happen in earlier time periods. Don't assume that your male ancestor is dead because he no longer appears on census records with his "widow." They may have divorced, he could have joined the military, become a bigamist or went out for the preverbal gallon of milk and didn't come back. Just like today, our ancestors led lives that were not always on the straight and narrow. But don't despair. Sometimes ancestors who were not perfect angels, left a better paper trail.
Become More Familiar with the Records You Research. Too often we just dive into databases not truly understanding why a particular record was used or its limitations. Make sure to read any record descriptions found on databases you utilize. In some cases finding aids written by the library or archive that houses the records are available. Use a library catalog like WorldCat to find books written about specific records. One example is the book by John J. Newman, Uncle, We Are Ready!: Registering America's Men, 1917-1918. North Salt Lake, Utah: Heritage Quest, 2001.