Public interest in genealogy is on the rise. With shows like Who Do You Think You Are and Genealogy Roadshow coming into household living rooms on a weekly basis many people are being bitten by the family history bug. According to a recent article in the USA Today genealogy is now a billion dollar industry and is the second most popular hobby in the United States surpassed only by gardening.
Perhaps all of the discussion and excitement of genealogy in the media has got you wondering about your roots. If you want to know more about your ancestry but aren’t sure where to begin here are a few tips on how you can get started.
Start in the Present with Yourself
Family history research always begins in the present and moves backwards in time step-by-step as stories are uncovered and documents are found. Think about the oral history and traditions that have been passed down in your family and record these bits of information. Locate and identify items in your home — such as heirlooms, documents, photographs, videos and other memorabilia — that showcase your family’s unique history. Ask other family members if they have any family history treasures residing in their attics or cupboards. Items such as marriage licenses, birth and death certificates, military papers, naturalization certificates, newspapers articles, obituaries can be a rich source of family information. These household documents provide clues and help to build a foundation upon which you can begin your family history research.
Talk to your living family members and ask them to share their life’s stories with you. Family elders can be a rich source of first hand information on your family’s history. As you speak with your family members take notes or record what they tell you. Sound genealogy practices require us to keep track of our sources and document where we get our information from so be sure to make note of the date and time you speak with each person.
Write down your family information as you uncover it being sure to record your source for each piece of information. Genealogy forms such as pedigree charts and family group sheets can be useful tools in helping you keep your family history research organized. Start by recording information about yourself and acquire the documentation necessary to link you to your parents before you begin researching your grandparents or great-grandparents.
As you continue with your research try to focus on one generation at a time. This will help to keep your research focused and accurate. Skipping generations or jumping branches on your family tree can create errors in your research and can possibly even lead you to research the wrong family.
Enjoy the journey as you discover your roots!