They can often provide you with details of names, dates, and key family events - although you should never take anything at face value, as it will be your job to investigate family myths. You may uncover skeletons in the cupboard as well - sometimes the most interesting part of your researches.
' You may uncover skeletons in the cupboard.'
Write all this down in your notes, as described in the companion article to this one, 'Before You Start Your Family Tree' (see right for link).
Now it's time to look through old family correspondence, photos, heirlooms and other material that can find its way into trunks, drawers, attics or cellars. You will be amazed how much information you can extract from these objects to obtain vital clues as to who exactly your blood relations were, when they were born, when they died, who they married and who their children were (or are).
While doing this, or even sooner, try to establish where key figures in your family were from originally, as this will play an important role when you start looking further afield for relevant records.
This background information is an integral part of family history, and should be your first task.