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Find family history & ancestors with genealogy ~ a rewarding hobby

Updated on April 17, 2013
Family collection photo
Family collection photo | Source

American Colonies 1775

Genealogy is a fun and fascinating hobby particularly rewarding in its potential to connect families and history through preservation of documentation, records, photographs, heritage and tradition. While a genealogy enthusiast safeguards and builds a family's data, within the collections and memories of a family's oldest living relatives dwells a wealth of information to be recorded and cherished as timeless treasures by future generations.

Begin the Search at Home

A genealogy collection begins at home. First things first, make a list of known family records including births, deaths, marriages and jot down unanswered questions that need a little more help. In searching records on hand, are there any old photographs of parents or ancestors? Are birth or marriage certificates available? Often newspaper clippings have been saved and set aside or an old family Bible may have been preserved and passed down through generations. Many families kept records of births, deaths and marriages in the Bible that may have other records stored within the pages. Are there any family collections available through relatives? Are there any photographs with unknown faces?

Revolutionary War Map

Virginia County Map 1770

Who, What, When, Where–– Visit the Elderly!

Births, deaths, marriages, names, dates and places are all problems that can quite often be resolved by visiting elderly relatives and asking questions. In an old photograph, who is the unfamiliar face standing beside a favorite uncle or grandparent? Was a certain ancestor born in another country? How many children were born to a particular family member?

When visiting elderly family members be prepared and take along note paper and pencils for making plenty of notes. Gathering as much information as possible will save an incredible amount of time and expense in comparison to starting a search from scratch. Don't be surprised if the visit is filled with more fast, free-flowing information than was ever imagined. Write fast!

Older family members can answer questions that otherwise may never be resolved. Asking grandma to name the county or township where she, her siblings, or mother was married will easily unearth the record's location if she doesn't happen to have a copy handy. Depending on the area, the document may give full names for bride and groom, parents names and certainly dates. What may appear to be a casual answer during a visit can be crucial in saving hours of time and turmoil in finding and accessing legal public records.

An older relative may or may not be comfortable knowing a conversation is being recorded but with explicit permission a taped recording of the visit could prove to be a valuable keepsake to pass along to future generations or to be used for later reference in recalling fine details. It's important to be respectful of the elderly and grateful for the wealth of information they have gathered throughout their lives and their willingness to share it.

When tracking a family tree elderly relatives are the best starting point and for exact dates which genealogy requires, public records exist that will cast away any doubts. Census, cemetery records and other sources of information are available but no sources are as valuable as family members who can be a guiding force to locating the actual public records.

Handle Family Collections and Photographs with Care
Should a photograph picture unknown faces, a quick sketch can help document the names of those pictured. This sketch shows an example of how an elderly family member was able to supply names for faces in the vintage photograph. Never write on a photograph, and if a photocopy can't be made, make an accompanying diagram noting names of those pictured. If there's easy access to a copying machine or scanner it's the perfect way to make a lasting record. Just scan the photograph, make a paper copy and then write notes on the copy of the photo.

Cherished collections of family pictures and records entrusted for duplication deserve extraordinary care and handling. Many of these are unique, irreplaceable one-of-a-kind possessions. A photograph, document or collection borrowed for copying should be kept safe, well-protected, and dry and always returned promptly in the same condition as it was found.

Make a Long Term Plan for Storage and Archives
Beginning a genealogy hobby is a noble endeavor and it's good to have a long term plan. Information can accumulate quickly with records, photos, public documents and database information becoming a mounting and growing challenge. Looking ahead and examining the various alternatives for document storage, archiving and information management is a great initial consideration that will save steps as the collections grow. There are powerful computer software programs for archiving family information and saving family trees that if utilized from the beginning will make the collections an absolute joy build, access and share.


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    • profile image

      Larmin 3 years ago

      I appreciate your kind and geonreus advice a lot!. I have been trying it hardly and did not get those amazing results!. It is nice to see that you got my comment in a good way!God bless you!VA:F [1.9.10_1130]please wait VA:F [1.9.10_1130](from 0 votes)

    • profile image

      Wilma 3 years ago

      I was just googling Jenny Jenson and found this. I used to live in Indy and as a child I had a frined by that name. I went to St Monica Catholic Church and I believe that is where I met her. She had the most awesome parents. Won't be you would it???

    • michabelle profile image

      michabelle 6 years ago

      Thank you wmhseo. The elder members of our families can answer so many questions for us. The stories can be fascinating. Thank you for visiting.

    • michabelle profile image

      michabelle 6 years ago

      Hello Tammy thanks for visiting. I "went the whole nine yards" and joined D.A.R. It makes it easier for your children should they ever be interested in joining, and the family stories are so special to pass on to them. Good luck with your maternal family... just be sure to gather what you can from your elders while you're still blessed with their presence.

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Great outline of steps to research the family tree. I have done this on my Dad's side. I still have to do it on my Mother's side. These hints will make it smoother this time around. Great hub!

    • michabelle profile image

      michabelle 6 years ago

      Hi Gypsy, it's a very rewarding hobby. Good luck!

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      I have just started growing a family tree. It is a very interesting hobby but I am finding it very expensive as I have no older living relatives and have to rely on sites like Thanks for the hints.

    • michabelle profile image

      michabelle 6 years ago

      Hello Credence2, thank you for your comments. Those are family members and I'm guessing the photo was made around 1919, so you're very close. This family traces to the 1700's in this country and then to Europe–– DNA and other evidence proves there's a good chance they were Vikings. In fact, descendants from this same family are found in the Barbados islands from the 1500's. On this genealogical treasure hunt, discovering Native American ancestry was a pleasant surprise and stories uncovered have been priceless. With every history there were always people who made war and the same people also made love. I guess there's no escaping the destiny of having been born into the "Family of Man." I love the stories! Have a wonderful New Year!!

    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 6 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Hi, Michabelle, you have touched on a topic dear to my heart. Is the photo that you displayed part of your family? I like to try to date old photographs. It looks like it may go back to approximately 1915 or so based on the fashions of the time, am I close?

      I have been doing a little family tree research of my own. I am no Alex Haley and I don't have any Kinte Kunte in my family line. I will call my book "Ruts", the saga of an American family.

      I will most certainly look forward to reading more...


      P.S. May you have a properous 2012

    • michabelle profile image

      michabelle 6 years ago

      Thank you all so much. This is my very first hub and I'm grateful for the encouragement. I've traced my own ancestors beyond the Revolutionary War, joined the Daughters of the American Revolution, and genealogy truly is a rewarding hobby. Now I'm finding my grandchildren are very grateful for the information––particularly the family stories that connect them to the history they're required to study in school. Happy New Year to all of you!

    • Ann Marie Dwyer profile image

      Red Dwyer 6 years ago from Crandall, TX

      Good example of the diagram for photo notes. Too many people destroy photos by writing on the back (or even the front) of them.

      Great hub.


    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 6 years ago from USA

      These are all great ideas for researching your family history. Voted up.

    • GoGreenTips profile image

      Greg Johnson 6 years ago from Indianapolis

      Very interesting. There is apparently quite a bit to tracing your family tree. Have often thought about it, but really have no living relatives left to talk to.


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