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Fascinating Family Histories

Updated on November 27, 2014

Finding Your Family History

One of the most popular hobbies today is Family History. There is something very satisfying in learning about your family. Most of us wonder where our ancestors came from. We wonder what kind of home they lived in, what kind of clothes they wore, what kind of food they ate. We want to know who their parents were, how many brothers and sisters they had, who they married, how many children they had. We want to know why they lived in a certain place. We want to know what kind of work they did.

Searching for your family history can answer many questions. With the internet there is so much information available. You may be able to find out where and when a great grandparent was born and died. You may be able to find out who their parents were. You may find much more information such as an autobiography or diary that a relative has published online about an ancestor. You may even find complete books about your ancestors. You may discover stories about things your ancestors did that you had no idea they were involved in. Of course you won't learn everything and you may end up with new unanswered questions even as you find new information.

Wide carriage vintage typewriter
Wide carriage vintage typewriter

The Changes in Doing Genealogy

My mother was very diligent in recording family history. She had taken a class on genealogy, and she started filling out pedigree charts and family group sheets. The sheets she filled out were 8" X 14" long. She had nice handwriting, but she preferred to type the sheets so they were more readable. She had to fold the sheets to fit in her old Underwood typewriter. Her dream was to have a long carriage typewriter so she wouldn't have to fold the sheets to type them. One time she loaned some sheets to another family member to copy off from. She didn't get the sheets back. That upset her and she determined not to loan out sheets again.

If my mother were alive today, she would have a great time recording her family history. She wouldn't be worried about a long carriage typewriter as she could just use the computer to enter her family history. If she wanted to share her family history she could easily print out another copy to give to someone or she could save a gedcom file to give to someone. She could keep the original sheets. I think she would be excited to see how much information is on the internet. I've even found a complete book to read online about my mother's great grandfather. I've also found diaries and autobiographies published online.

There is so much information about a time period online now. I have ancestors who lived in Salem Massachusetts during the time of the Witch Trials. I've gone online and read about the history of the Witch Trials. So far I haven't come across their names in the lists of the accused and the accusers. Still I've wondered what they thought and felt during that time. It must have been a challenging time to live in.

I wish my mother could be alive to enjoy all the information we now have access to, but she's not. Instead I can enjoy being able to pass on to my daughters information that my mother didn't even know about.

Getting Started with Your Family's History

The first thing to do is write down all that you know about your family. Write down the full names of your parents. Make sure you include your mother's maiden name. Write down where they were born and when they were born. Write down where and when they were married. Write down the names of their children and their birth dates and places.

Next write down all the information you know about your grandparents. Put down all you know about them the same as you did for your parents. Write down all you know about their children.

Next write down any other ancestors you know of. Perhaps all you know is the last name of a family line. My late husband said he had been told that Lovelady was a family name, but he didn't know where they came in. Although he passed away over ten years ago, he had written down the name. In helping my daughter research her father's family we found out that my husband's mother's great grandfather was Joshua Lovelady and he has a trail in California named after him. So, write down all that you know even when you aren't sure how it connects. Some day you may find the connection.

Next go through family documents and photos. Check birth certificates and death certificates for information on family members. Look on the back of photos to see if information has been recorded. If you have a family bible see if any information about the family was written in it. Read through old letters and cards. You may find information there.

Finding Your Family History on the Internet

The internet has made researching your family history much easier. You may find other people have researched some of your ancestors and have put the information online. You can check out www.familysearch.org and search one of your ancestor's names. You may find a lot of information or only a little or maybe none at all. My daughter wanted to know about her father's ancestors, so we put it in what information we had and found another generation there that someone else had found. You can download Personal Ancestral File at www.familysearch.org and then you can download information on your family into Personal Ancestral File. Then you can add information that you have personal knowledge of or family record's of to the Personal Ancestral File. There are other sites that offer free trials where you can search for information on your ancestors.

I have put a name into a search engine to see what would come up. I have found websites and books and blogs about some of my ancestors. I've learned things I had never heard from family members. Other things I've learned I had heard about but I hadn't realized the significance of what happened. For instance I knew one ancestor had been involved with the Bear Flag Party in California. I didn't realize until I found some information online that he had actually been the President of the Republic of California even though the Republic only existed for less than a month. If you don't find stories about your ancestors but you do know where they lived and when they lived there, do a search for that time period and place to find out what was happening there. You might look for old newspapers for the area where they lived. You may find articles about an ancestor in those newspapers. At least you will know more about the circumstances that they lived in.

Family history can be a very interesting and enlightening experience. As we learn more about our ancestors, we learn more about ourselves.

Exciting New Ways to Find and Share Your Family History

Here are is information on new websites being developed with some exciting features to help search for your family's history.

Humorous Family History Videos

Although family history can be exciting when you find information about family members, sometimes it can seem tedious and frustrating when you hit roadblocks in your search. Taking a break for a little humor can help. Here are two lighthearted videos about family history.

Doing Family History without a Computer

If you don't have a computer, you can still research your family history. Public libraries are a place to start. If your family lived in a certain area for a long period of time, you will probably find things about them in old newspapers or you may even find books written about them. Museums may be another place where you can find information. For instance the museum in our town was given the old records from the old courthouse which was no longer in use. People who have had family in the area for many years may be able to find some good information. Obtaining copies of birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses and other legal documents will give a lot of information.

Family history libraries are another resource. There is a large Family History Center in Salt Lake City, Utah that any one can visit. You can also find family history libraries in many of the stake centers and ward buildings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. There is no charge to use library and any one, not just members of the church can use the libraries. You can find locations, hours and contact information online at www.lds.org under Family History. In the libraries are people who are ready to help you research your family. They have computers to help you with your research and you can research using microfilm.

Add Clip Art to Enhance Your Family's Story

When you are writing your family's story, you might want to include pictures. When I wrote the above module about my mother, I wished I had a picture of her typewriter. In our family we didn't take pictures of objects. We took pictures of people. The camera was one way of recording family history. If there were pictures of objects, it was because someone was sitting or standing by the object or holding it in their hands. I thought a picture would be nice to add, so I searched for free clip art of a typewriter. I was pleasantly surprised to find clip art of a wide carriage typewriter. Check out the following link for some great clip art or do an online search for other sites to find what you need.

Help with Writing Your Family History

Books with My Family History

A short time ago I discovered a friend of mine is a distant cousin to me. We have the same ancestors--Ezekiel Johnson and Julia Hills. She said the series of books called "A Banner is Unfurled" is taken from their journals and diaries. It is a wonderful feeling to find you are connected to someone through common ancestors. It is even more wonderful when you find that their stories have been written and published. I feel so blessed to have discovered another cousin and to learn more about my ancestors.

Helpful Genealogy Videos

A Family History Poll

What have you done with your family history?

See results

Do you have a fascinating family story to share?

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    • profile image

      grannysage 6 years ago

      I am very fortunate to have several books that were written about my mother's family. Her father was a commercial fisherman on Isle Royale which lies in Lake Superior near Canada. It is now a national park. The family spent several winters there and were provided with their own schoolteacher. One of them wrote a book called "Diary of an Isle Royale School Teacher. There are several other books that tell of the fishing families on the island and one that features my mother herself. I often told my mother to turn on a tape recorder when she would reminisce with her brothers and sisters, but alas that did not happen.

    • JenaleeMortensen profile image
      Author

      JenaleeMortensen 6 years ago

      @grannysage: That is wonderful that you've found books about your family. I find it so exciting when I read something new about one of my ancestors. It is too bad that your mother and her brothers and sisters didn't take the time to record their memories. My husband recorded his mother's memories and one of my cousins recorded our grandmother's memories. Those two recordings are priceless to me. I finally figured out how to get them from a cassette tape onto my computer and then burned on a CD so they will last longer. I think we should record our own memories whether with a video or audio recording or by writing them down for family members in the future. Writing our memories of our parents and grandparents will pass on those memories to other family members. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    • profile image

      Beas 6 years ago

      Great lens with lots of comprehensive info and tips! My mother has been into researching our family history too. So we learned my father was a descendant of the French Huguenots.

    • pkmcruk profile image

      pkmcr 6 years ago from Cheshire UK

      Great to see someone else creating Genealogy lenses here on Squidoo! Blessed by a passing Squid Angel :-)

    • DecoratingEvents profile image

      DecoratingEvents 6 years ago

      WOW! Tons of info about how-to and ideas to get you started. Excellent resource... *Blessed by a Squid Angel!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 6 years ago from Central Florida

      Well, it fascinates me, and what I've put on Squidoo about my great-great grandfather and my great aunt has been well received. I'm working with my 85 year old mother to turn the material she has into self-published books.

    • ArtByLinda profile image

      Linda Hoxie 6 years ago from Idaho

      I think preserving family history and the stories that are part of that history are so important, wonderful lens!

    • jvsper63 profile image

      jvsper63 6 years ago

      I would be nice to know your roots, Great lens

    • GramaBarb profile image

      GramaBarb 5 years ago from Vancouver

      Every family needs a family historian! Good job.

    • Joe Fiduccia profile image

      Joe Fiduccia 2 years ago from Monroe County, PA

      Incredible article. I can clearly see you spent a lot of time on it! Unfortunately I don't know much about my family's history. We've done a lot of research and used many of the sites you mention above. In the end, it appears that much of it has simply been lost over time. That is why I am committed to preserving MY story. So that one day my future ancestors will know more about the life I once lived. Thanks for the tips. :)

    • JenaleeMortensen profile image
      Author

      JenaleeMortensen 2 years ago

      Writing about your own story is an important part of your family history. Writing what you remember about your parents and your grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and other family members is another part of your family history that is important to do. Researching the history of the area your family lived in can also give your more information about what your family's life was like. Never give up hope of finding information on your ancestors. As more documents are placed online, you may find information about your family. Just start with what you do know.

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