Ask your family
So you have a small acorn of a family tree with you in it. The next stage is, where possible, to ask your family. So often, people wish they had asked elderly relatives more about their lives and memories while they had time. This is your chance. Whether you phone, visit or write, remember to make a note of every detail they tell you. There might be clues in their memories of older generations that will be really important later.
And remember this isn't just a fact-finding exercise; more than any other topic, genealogy brings families together across generations, talking over the dinner table or a cup of tea. Memories do fade so you might need to be patient as your relatives search through their recollections. Often what is most rewarding about these early stages of your family tree aren't the names and the dates but the stories and anecdotes about the characters and quirks of those earlier generations. This is your family's oral history and it's just as important and just as valid as written records in government archives.
Raid the attic
This is where the real world meets the virtual one. As you start to put your family tree together online, you will want to add colour with photos and documents from the past. A lot of people find amazing collections of family photos in their loft or garage and there's something beautiful and slightly illusive about those posed sepia shots of an old family wedding or day out.
Sometimes, helpfully, a relative has written names on the back of photos so you can identify who is who, but often the faces sport familiar eyes but are otherwise anonymous! Don't worry - this is all part of the detective work of the family historian and you will hopefully be able to put a name to a face later. Your family photographs might go back as far as 1870 when portrait photos became more mainstream. Before then, people were recorded in paintings, sculptures and engravings. If you discover you have an illustrious family, you might find images of your ancestors at the National Portrait Gallery or other galleries local to the area in which your family originates.
TIP: When a relative can't remember a name or date, suggest something incorrect and allow them to contradict you. It's a great way of bringing people's recollections to the surface - try it on your own family.