Find family history & ancestors with genealogy ~ a rewarding hobby
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.
Library of Congress Genealogy Site
- Local History and Genealogy Reading Room (Humanities and Social SciencesDivision, Library of Congres
The Library of Congress has one of the world's premier collections of U.S. and foreign genealogical and local historical publications. The Library's genealogy collection began as early as 1815 when Thomas Jefferson's library was purchased.
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.