One additional tool that I use frequently is Ancestry.com. First let me say, it is not free. You can however, use it free for 14 days as a trial. Everyone I know has done this.
You can buy a subscription for a month, 6 months or a year. It is cheaper by the year but not cheap. As a beginner, getting the U.S. Discovery membership should be enough to get you most of what you will need as you start your search. Later, once you need to cross the ocean, the World membership or the World Plus will be needed but not right away unless you are a first or second generation American.
The money that you spend for Ancestry will be saved by not having to drive all over to look at census records, marriage and death records, newspaper clippings, draft registrations, ship records, immigration records and city directories that are part of the holdings that Ancestry has. You can print off copies of records from Ancestry as well.
In my personal opinion, it is well worth the cost. You can make you family tree right on the site and if you leave your research open, you will be able to connect with family members who may also be working on your tree.
Little leafs will pop up to tell you about records that may relate to your ancestors. It is quite exciting when you look at your tree and there are lots of little leaves waving at you. Have fun with your trial.