Five Basic Steps To Start Your Genealogy Research
For most people, genealogy is simply a way for them to learn more about their ancestors. Other reasons for studying the history of your family and the relationship of family members to each other might include an interest in tracing illnesses and diseases within a family or finding information about a long-forgotten relative. Regardless of your reasons, here are five steps to get you started with your genealogy search.
Start with what you already know
Begin the exploration of your family's history by gathering all of the information you can put your hands on. Included among the things you should be looking for are:
- Old family photos
- Diaries kept by family members
- Correspondence, such as letters and postcards
- Family Bibles
- Scrap books and newspaper clippings of people and events pertaining to the family
After searching through your basement, attic, garage and all of those nooks and crannies where things get hidden away and forgotten, contact as many relatives as you can to ask them to do the same thing. You will be amazed at how much material people have about their current family members and ancestors that is buried away and forgotten in boxes, suitcases and drawers.
Don't ignore the value of talking to people
If you have not been keeping a record of the stories your parents and grandparents told you about their childhoods and the memories they have about growing up, then you are missing out on a wealth of information that you can use when doing your genealogy search. Begin by writing down the stories as you recall hearing them and pay care attention to the names of relatives from your family's past.
While you are at it, don't forget to talk to aunts, uncles and other relatives whose stories might give you an insight into your ancestry. You should interview as many of your relatives as possible, and take notes while listening. Better yet, make recordings of the interviews to have for later review.
Write down what you know and start analyzing the gaps
Simply from what you have gathered so far, you should be able to begin putting together the genealogy of your family. When trying to decide which gaps to focus on first, focus on family members who are as close to your generation as possible. Once you have begun, you can work your way back in time as you fill in the gaps.
Assemble a family tree
Go to one of the many genealogy websites on the internet that allow you to build a family tree using the information you have gathered up to this point. Include the name, date of birth and date of death for each of the relatives you include on the tree.
Choose a family story to focus your genealogy search
Every family has an interesting story somewhere in its history, and your family is no exception. The material you have gathered up to this step in assembling the genealogy of your family should allow you to choose a story on which you can now focus your attention. It will provide you with the direction your research will take and lead you to U.S. Census records, newspapers and other materials to gather additional information.
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