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Researching your Family History

Updated on December 31, 2010

Researching your family history can seem like an extremely daunting task at first. You may have no clue where to even begin! I have been intrigued with my family’s history since I was very young. My dad loved discovering who his ancestors were and passed this passion down to me. I love finding out new things about my ancestors: where they lived, where they came from, when they were born, and a plethora of other intriguing things you can learn about them! Researching your family’s history can be an enjoyable hobby, and it will give you something invaluable that you can pass down to your children and grandchildren, who will be able to in turn pass it down to their children and grandchildren.

If you don’t know where to begin, and have very little information, the best place to start is with your parents or grandparents. They can be an invaluable source for birthdates and locations, marriages dates, death dates, and the names of some of your more distant ancestors. You can also ask them any other questions that you have about your family history, or any interesting family stories that they would like to share. You might be surprised how much information they are able to give you, and you will hear some remarkable stories about your ancestors along the way. Many older people have such amazing stories to tell, all they need is someone who is willing to sit down with them and listen! Aunts, uncles, and other distant relatives may also be a great source of information about your family's history. Find out if anyone in your family has done any research before, and if so, set a time to meet with them and see how much information you have to share with each other!

Once you have gotten as much information from your parents, grandparents, and other relatives as possible, find out if there are any old family bibles, letters, or documents that you might be able to view. People often kept incredibly excellent records in their family bible, recording information such as births, marriages, deaths, baptisms, and other events that may be of interest to you.

Your local library could be another great source of information. Many library systems have an entire department dedicated to genealogy. The library system where I live occasionally holds genealogy workshops, and has a wealth of information online about where you can go and search to find old documents and records. Check with the local library where you live to see what type of resources they have available that could be a help to you.

The internet can also be an invaluable source in researching your family history. You might be surprised how much information you can find on the internet these days! Although the internet can be a great source of information for you, you may also find that some of the information you come across is incorrect. One of the most reliable resources I have come across on the internet is a website called Ancestry. You do not have to pay any money to join, but in order to have full access to the website there is a monthly fee. This particular website has thousands and thousands of a wide variety of old documents that you can view online. There are census records, birth, marriage, and death records, military records, old newspaper articles and obituaries, and so many other helpful records and documents that can be a great help for anyone wanting to learn more about their ancestors. Ancestry has information on immigrants who came to America, and so many useful search engines, you will without a doubt find something that will be useful to you in your search for your ancestors. What I like best about this website is the fact that you can build your family tree online, and the website saves your tree on the site for you forever. You can share it with other family members who are also interested in genealogy, and see if they have any additional information to add to your tree. You can upload photos, documents, and stories, or anything else that you would consider essential to complete your family tree. You can also view other member’s public trees, and occasionally find other information about your family from someone else. The only complaint I have about this site is that anyone can add any information to their public tree, whether it is correct or not. If you view someone’s tree that you have a common ancestor with, ask them if they mind sharing where they got the information, or search for historical records on the individual you are researching. This will help cut back on mistakes, and help your tree to be more historically accurate.



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    • Donna Janelle profile image

      Donna Janelle 7 years ago from Oklahoma

      JamaGenee - I'm glad you enjoyed my hub! I'm definitely not a pro at family history or anything, but I definitely enjoy researching my family whenever I get the chance.

      Thank you for the tip about including appropriate family keywords specific to my family...I will be adding some to this hub! That is such a great idea to maybe find other distant family members that are online.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      I've been addicted...yes, family history for almost 30 years. It can be frustrating at times, but never ever b-o-r-i-n-g. (Perhaps because I'm an inveterate snoop at heart?)

      The tips you've included are great, but in my case all but one of my grandparents were dead when I caught the bug. The remaining grandmother was already in her 90s, and she had NO interest in our family's history. None. In fact, she didn't want anyone rattling the familial skeletons, and in the years since a cousin and I have unearthed *many* reasons why.

      As for Ancestry and other genealogy sites that allow members to upload information, documented or not, I stay away from self-generated trees unless I'm completely and totally stuck. Which doesn't mean I consider the info valid, only a pointer to another path I somehow overlooked. Then I'll search the censuses, wills and other (generally) reliable sources to verify the information.

      As for finding heretofore unknown cousins from writing about my ancestors on HP, it happened just the other day. A descendant of my ggm Annie (Savage) Sowerby's "baby brother" Thomas was thrilled to find my "English Rose" hub. Annie had emigrated to America and Thomas had started a family two counties from their birthplace, so they lost touch.

      Same thing has happened several times at my blog, Saturday's Child, so it's important to include as many keywords as possible that pertain to only YOUR ancestors in your hub(s) or blog post(s) so a "new" relative can find you by googling those words. (The Savage cousin found "English Rose" by googling Savage AND "Bolton, Westmorland".)

      Great hub!

    • Donna Janelle profile image

      Donna Janelle 7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Thanks daydreamer! :)

    • daydreamer13 profile image

      daydreamer13 7 years ago

      Family history is so interesting. Great hub!

    • Donna Janelle profile image

      Donna Janelle 7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Wow that is crazy! I would be floored as well...that would be really neat though.

    • fortunerep profile image

      fortunerep 7 years ago from North Carolina

      or you can just write a hub about them, I did and found my Uncle Ross, I was floored