Fascinating Family Histories
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.
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.
- LDS Church News - Unfolding the future of online family history research
Regarding FamilySearch, "something big is coming soon," proclaimed Daniel C. Lawyer on July 29, the third day of the Conference on Family History and Genealogy at BYU. In fact, that declaration was the parenthetical subtitle of his plenary session ad
- Future Tools to Dig Up The Past
Here is information on new tools that will really help you 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.
More Help with Your Family History Research
- Cyndi's List
You'll find lots of help here as you research your family history. If you think you may have hit a dead end in your family history research, check here for more places to go.
- Online Classes about Family History
You'll find no cost classes here to help you learn research principles and tools and classes that help with research in England, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Russia and the United States.
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?
Family History Links
- Step-by-Step Guide to Oral History
Here is a guide to help you do an oral history. There are a lot of helpful detailed ideas that will help you successful make an oral history.