Our past shapes who we are and how we came to be. We all have a story to tell and genealogy can help us tell our stories with more detail. Whether you are trying to learn more about your family lineage or hunt down your family’s medical history, genealogy can help. Genealogy allows you to trace back important documents (i.e., birth, medical, marriage, death) as far as possible through the study of your family’s ancestors.
If you have questions about your past and need to find some answers, here are some tips to get you started with genealogy.
Stay Focused & Establish Your Goals
What exactly are you hoping to learn? What specific questions do you need answered? Multitasking while undergoing a meticulous process, such as genealogy, is not a good idea. This might lead to even more unnecessary questions that consume your attention and distract you from what you actually want to know. Not to mention, more questions cause more confusion. By clearly establishing your goals, you can have a better chance of finding what you need more efficiently.
Identify What You Already Know
Learn as much as you can from the present. Take this time to map out what you already know. Scour through your baby books and family albums. Rummage through your memory boxes and pull out any photos, letters, or memorabilia that might help in the search. Take a visit to your parent’s house or grandparent’s house and ask them to retell your family stories. Host a family reunion and ask your relatives. Maybe they’ll even let you dig through some of their boxes, too. You’d be surprised to learn how much information your family may already hold. Ask and you shall receive.
Write it down! Why do all the research just to forget a key piece of information that might help in the future? Get in the habit of documenting everything you learn. This is where you need to write down names, relationships, birthdates, marriages, addresses, and deaths of who may have a connection with your family. Not only that, but you also should document where you found that information. Keep track of all your sources. Find a process that works for you or seek the Internet for more refined ways to organize information.
Research, Research, Research!
It’s time to start getting creative about where you find information. While your grandparents may know enough to make a good story, do your research elsewhere to make it an even better one. Visit websites such as FamilySearch or Ancestry to begin the online research process. Or, start locally by visiting libraries, churches, schools, cemeteries, businesses, courthouses, etc. Visit multiple sources to gather as many historical records as you can. Torri Schaffer