Researching your family tree is a fun, exciting hobby that can instantly turn into an addiction. As you begin your search, the photos, stories and historical data become threads. When woven together, you will discover the very fabric of your roots. So, how do you begin? Well, you may not like the answer: you simply just need to start.
Tips for Researching Your Family Tree
1. Get Organized
Researching requires note-taking and gathering data. Setting up a small space to gather your research is one of the best ways of staying organized.
- File cabinet
- Folders and binders
- Plastic holders to keep clippings and photos safe
- Computer, printer and the Internet
- Printing paper
- USB’s or backup discs
Depending on your organization preferences, you may also want to purchase colored pens, markers, and highlighters.
2. Just Start
After gathering your basic organization materials, just start. Yes, there’s the simple advice again. Start with the information you already know about your family history. Begin by building your family tree online or simply start making notes. Gather any relatable materials already in your possession.
- Family photographs
- Newspaper clippings
- Birth certificates
- Family Bible
- Invites, thank you notes, or other saved material
- Diaries or journals
The smallest piece of information may provide larger search details in the future.
3. Start Asking Questions
Asking questions prior to loved ones passing is crucial for gathering firsthand information. Begin by asking parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles about your family history.
- Who? Ask who your ancestors are?
- Where? Ask where did they originate? Where did they live?
- When? Ask for any dates that may help with your search.
- How? Ask how your ancestors came to live in a specific area?
Go beyond asking about the facts, ask about the memories. Writing out short stories about your ancestors is a great addition to your family tree.
4. Use the Internet
Using proper documentation techniques, the Internet can be a wonderful resource tool. Some sites are only available with payment. Others are free to browse. Backing up the sources should be part of the search to verify the data is correct.
5. Join Local Genealogical and Historical Societies
Contact your local genealogical and historical society for help. Many organizations will help you without charge. Over time, you may want to join the organization to learn about other researching techniques. Many societies have weekly or monthly meetings. Others go on trips to local cemeteries or other historical sites. One of the greatest aspects about joining a genealogical group is each member understands your quest for knowledge. Often a fellow genealogy buff will know how to research a subject area, helping you further your research.
Genealogy research is both fun and frustrating. However, over time the journey may bring you closer to your family roots.