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Geneology 101: Tracing Your Family Roots

Updated on October 21, 2012

Starting a Geneology Search

Have you ever wondered where your family heritage began? You may have heard bits and pieces about your family at weddings, funerals, and family reunions, which peaked your curiosity about filling in the blanks. You have decided to find out more about your ancestry, but you do not know where to begin. Getting started with a geneology search is easier than you think. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Keeping Good Records

Before you jump into your search, you should have a method of maintaining the information you find. There are several ways to do this. You can keep a notebook for each family line (your family line, your spouse's family line, each of your parent's family lines, etc.) You could also make folders for each family line where you put your notes, any documents, and pictures that you collect. You might decide that you want to keep it all together in one folder and sort it out later. There is no right or wrong way as long as you are able to keep track of all the data you find.

Information at Your Fingertips

Believe it or not, your search begins at home with knowledge you already have. Begin by identifying your immediate family, such as parents, siblings, spouse's parents and siblings, sons and daughters, and nieces and nephews. These are the family members that are going to initially produce the most information. Write down their birth dates and places, baptisms, social security numbers, places where they have lived, major illnesses, and deaths. These answers are usually very easy to discover because you have been or are directly involved in their lives.

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

Example of a family photograph
Example of a family photograph | Source

Memories of Older Generations

Once you have written down all the information you have in your memory, it is time to start asking questions about the next generation. Your parents can give you information about their parents and siblings. Your living grandparents can give you information about their parents and siblings. They may have newspaper articles, old pictures with ancestors that you have never met, birthday cards, address books, and many more items that can provide you with a wealth of information. Make copies of any written documents and pictures that you find as these are important when verifying the data you have collected. Keep thorough records of every piece of ancestry that you discover, so you will not have to redo work you have already done.

Family Tree

Family Tree Template
Family Tree Template | Source

Compiling Your Discoveries

Now that you have completed the first step in your search, it is time to organize your data. There are several ways to do this. You can join a website, such as, and type in the information about each family member. These sites often alert you to extra information about a specific family member or written documentation available for verification ( census records, birth records, social security death index records, etc.). Another method is using ancestry forms to put your data in a written format. There is no right or wrong method. It is just important that you put all the facts in a neat and organized manner that will assist you with future searches. Once you have completed this step (which will take more time than you expect), you will be ready take the next step in your geneology journey.


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    • shiningmoments66 profile image

      Debra Pelletier 4 years ago from Norman, OK, 73071

      Thank you for the feedback. This is my first hub, so your comments are greatly appreciated. I have been working on my own ancestry for a few years now. It never ceases to amaze me what kinds of information is out there waiting to be discovered.

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 4 years ago from United States

      Nice hub. My wife does this and has compiled quite an interesting log of both sides of our families. Many surprises along the way, too, thanks.

    • Rodric29 profile image

      Rodric Johnson 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      As knowledgeable as I think I am about family history work, I have learned the proper way to do it here. I start with my history and work backwards. I would only ask names and dates. Now I am empowered to ask for stories and memories also. is a goo site where I can put all of this information. It has a format which allows for stories and other history.

      VOted up for its concise manner and informative nature. The information was easy to read and succinct. Shared