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Explore Your Family History - A True Learning Experience

Updated on September 8, 2014

Seriously exploring your family history can be a real brain teaser and mystery challenge all its own - Try it!

How many of the thousands of stories that accompany the life histories of your eight great-grandparents, your four grandparents and your two parents do you really know? If you have any step-, or foster- or other- persons to add to that base group, the stories to learn grow even more. I recently read of a young person who did not even know their own parents identities... can you imagine that? What a great learning experience that person has ahead of them.

My challenge to you is to learn these stories. Many folks spend years working their genealogies 'back to William the Conqueror' but fail/forget/don't bother to learn the wonderful stories along the way. Let's just concentrate on these fourteen or so folks, for now. I'd love to hear the stories you find! ;-)

I created this wikid image of my own family in WikiTree.com.

A Fanciful Family Tree
A Fanciful Family Tree

Start your search for Family Stories with yourself

What stories did your parents tell you of the 'early years' of their lives?

The best place to start is to write down - use paper, pen, pencil or computer word-processor - the key elements of the reasons why you became interested in Exploring Your Family History to start with. Who did you talk to? What did they tell you? Did you believe them?

You and your parents are the logical jumping off point - just look at the tree (designed by Deb Spradlin, by the way). How many can you name? What do you know about them? What did they do? What work did they do? Did they go to college? Where? Where did they live, and when?

As you begin to think about the answers you know, and don't know, to these questions, you will find you are beginning to arrange priorities in your mind as to which steps you want to take next. Begin to write those down - make a To Do List, or however you handle such things. This is still very informal and you can do these steps in ways that keep you in your comfort zone. As you begin to work on your To Do List, for course, you may want to read and consider using some of the information in the other links I have provided here in this lens for your benefit in further Exploring Your Family History. Enjoy the journey! ;-)

Can you name your eight great-grandparents? - Share your thoughts and unusual circumstances

Can you name your eight great-grandparents?

Do you have an old family photo to help you identify grandparents or others?

Do you have an old family photo to help you identify grandparents or others?
Do you have an old family photo to help you identify grandparents or others?

Genealogy on Amazon

These options, provided under the Key Words by Amazon, "Genealogy" may or may not be useful. I am providing it for you as a reminder there are many, resources available to help you in your search.

Genealogy is the formal search of the vital records of your ancestors. At some point, you may find some of these resources useful to you, as well.

Satisfy my curiousity, please! - Comments appreciated! ;-)

My Great-Grandmother Sodorstrom was born in Sweden
My Great-Grandmother Sodorstrom was born in Sweden

How far back in your family do you already know some family stories?

See results

Your Comments are welcome on this learning experince lens

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    • MelRootsNWrites profile image

      Melody Lassalle 

      3 years ago from California

      Dr. Bill, this was very informative. I've been researching for over 25 years. I learned early that genealogy is more than names, dates, and places. In order for it to come alive, you have to talk to family (including distant relatives) and learn the stories. Even after all these years, I am still learning. I am fortunate in that I started when I was 26 years old when I got the bug. However, only one of my grandparents were alive by that time. I was lucky that my grandparents cousins, their siblings, and their children were willing to talk to me. Through them I've been able to piece together the lives and stories of my ancestors and other relatives.

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @anonymous: Most of us get started later in life; it is never to late. When the time is right, you will know it. Hope it is soon! ;-)

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      Family trees are good to do but I must admit to doing other things first.

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @anonymous: Hope you can. Be sure to see my 7 Step Guide lens, for folks like you! ;-)

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      Fantastic article. I always vanted to explore my family tree, but there is newer enought time. Maybe one day, when my kids grow up:).

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @jenny-archer-9: Thank you for stopping by! ;-)

    • profile image

      jenny-archer-9 

      5 years ago

      Taken my husband's family tree back to the Battle of Agincourt where his (can't remember how many great's) grandad was knighted by King Henry and instructed to change his name from De Boys to Archer...haven't even started my own,it is just so time consuming.

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @mikerdavis: I'll feel much better, Mike, when you have an acceptable lens published... ;-)

    • profile image

      mikerdavis 

      5 years ago

      Great article on learning the stories of your past. I recently created an iPad application designed specifically for this need. Personal and family stories are special and deserve to be saved and stored to stand the test of time.

      I recently wrote a lens on this topic as well.

      http://www.squidoo.com/workshop/the-importance-of-...

      Thanks for the book recommendations!

    • opatoday profile image

      opatoday 

      5 years ago

      This is a great lens and very deserving of the attention.Well Done you are a real pro

      Thank you

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @MiaMusement: That is neat. I'll bet, however, there are gaps and missing information that could be researched... and sometimes those tough ones are the most satisfying! ;-)

    • profile image

      MiaMusement 

      5 years ago

      Wow, look at all that angel dust! It's a great lens and very deserving of the attention. I'm fortunate to have a mother who took an interest in genealogy, so we know quite a bit about both my heritage and my husband's.

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @Metalpriest: Thank you! ;-)

    • Metalpriest profile image

      Metalpriest 

      5 years ago

      A very interesting lens.

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @cgbroome: I love that feeling as well! Thanks for the visit and the comment! ;-)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @VictoriaKelley: How wonderful! I hope you have made good use of the envelope of goodies... sounds like good genealogy blogging material! ;-)

    • cgbroome profile image

      cgbroome 

      5 years ago

      I love doing genealogy and have done so for decades! Sometimes its frustrating and other time you laugh, cry, dance, etc. when you find someone! When you find someone in you family line, you feel like you really know them! I love that feeling!

    • VictoriaKelley profile image

      VictoriaKelley 

      5 years ago

      This is very interesting to me. I found out from my grandfather that my Great-Great Grandfather was born in Santiago, Chile, sailed to England married, sailed to Australia and that's where I came in a few generations later. It is wonderful to know where you came from. Before my grandfather passed away he sent me a big envelope with all kinds of history in it. Thanks for this lens it made remember my grandfather.

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @SayGuddaycom: As with any task, you simply start by writing down, documenting, what you already know, and they make a To Do List of what is missing and a start working on that, one by one. It is is not some massive project, properly done, just a fun, detective/mystery game, one story at a time! ;-)

    • SayGuddaycom profile image

      SayGuddaycom 

      5 years ago

      I've always thought about doing this but my family is quite large and it seems like a mammoth task every time I think about it.

    • profile image

      Unchain3dAuthor 

      5 years ago

      I have never put too much thought into learning about my family history. I guess I have been living in the moment and thinking of the future only a bit too much. I don't neglect much of the world's history, but I can't say the same for my own. Reading this lens has definitely triggered some thought provoking questions. I will look more into my family history. Thank you for the wonderful laid out bits of information.

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @CoolFool83: Thank you! ;-)

    • CoolFool83 profile image

      CoolFool83 

      5 years ago

      We should take the time to learn about our family's history. Truly a great lense!

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @norma-holt: Thank you. Best Wishes! ;-)

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 

      5 years ago

      My daughter has traced the family back to it's roots in the UK. My great grandfather left a wonderful bible which lists all his children and their children so it was a big help. Good lens and congrats on LOTD. Featured on Blessed by Skiesgreen 2012-2 and also on Ancestry and Family History

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @SQuidMonster: That is why I made it! Thanks! ;-)

    • SQuidMonster profile image

      SQuidMonster 

      5 years ago

      ggod lense loved it

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @Bella21: I appreciate that. It was a labor of love, for sure! ;-)

    • profile image

      Bella21 

      5 years ago

      Inspirational lens. Thank you!

    • kwagga profile image

      kwagga 

      5 years ago

      @DrBillSmithWriter: Yes, I do blog Dr Bill, and it's a great idea. I'm a FaceBooker, so that's another way one can use to create "awareness" and drive them to your blog post.

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @kayla_harris: Thank you! ;-)

    • profile image

      kayla_harris 

      5 years ago

      Wow, thanks for sharing this useful Lens! And I think the family history is very important to us!

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @neilwjsmith: Enjoy the opportunity... every moment! ;-)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @Earnlat: Thank you, very much! ;-)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @Noveliaa: My pleasure! ;-)

    • neilwjsmith profile image

      Neil Walter Smith 

      5 years ago from Portarlington, Victoria, Australia

      My mother did the above then passed away leaving her project in my lap. You can read about it on my lens 'True Love Stories ... '. Thanks again for the nice comment.

    • Earnlat profile image

      Earnlat 

      5 years ago

      Lovely work, great suggestions! Cool lens...

    • profile image

      Noveliaa 

      5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing these information.

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @RangerMgr: Best thing to do is start slow, on a regular plan... write down what you know from personal information, make note of gaps in your knowledge, and take them one at a time. You can do it. Just do it - now! ;-) Putting it off, you will never do it! ;-)

    • profile image

      RangerMgr 

      5 years ago

      Wow. I wish I had time to explore.

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @eccles1: Just do it! Now! Hope this helped, for sure! ;-)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @spids1: Thanks! ;-)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @anonymous: For sure! Thanks! ;-)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @nifwlseirff: I appreciate your words. Thanks! ;-)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @George-Christie: Thank you! ;-)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @slappywalker: For sure. I really appreciate your thoughts! Sharing family information and stories is so important! ;-)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @christmasbaby: Thank you! ;-)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @kwagga: Continue to write down and share the stories! You are making them, as well! thanks for sharing. Do you blog? That is another good way of sharing... ;-)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @anonymous: Thank you, so much! A real honor! ;-)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @Teapixie LM: What a neat story! Great memories. Those are the important things! ;-)

    • eccles1 profile image

      eccles1 

      5 years ago

      I been wanting to get this together for my family,thanks for your help.

      Great lens!

    • spids1 profile image

      spids1 

      5 years ago

      Very cool! Congrats on LOTD!

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      Family stories are surely a treasure. Great lens. Congratulations on making LOTD.

    • profile image

      nifwlseirff 

      5 years ago

      A great lens! Congrats on the LotD

    • George-Christie profile image

      George-Christie 

      5 years ago

      That's a great lens! Well done Dr Bill!!

    • profile image

      slappywalker 

      5 years ago

      Before my grandmother passed away, I tried to spend as much time as possible with her in order to learn more family stories and recipes and things like that. Looking back at it now, I'm glad I did and I look forward to passing those on to my daughter as she gets older. It's a great feeling to hold onto that link from the past.

    • christmasbaby profile image

      christmasbaby 

      5 years ago

      Hello Dr Bill, your lens is wonderful! Congrats on the LoTD!

    • kwagga profile image

      kwagga 

      5 years ago

      Thank you for a great lens! Ever since I was a small boy I wanted to capture my Dad and Grandparents' stories. I got some of my Dad's entertaining stories, like pasting hymnbooks together with syrup while being at boarding school, but about 23 years later those midi tapes are long gone. Something I regret. Now they all have left this earth. I was told our surname, Adlem, was the original, and due to spelling mistakes it has evolved into Adlam and other variations. After some research a year or so ago, would you know it, it's all the time MY surname that is the variation! Go figure. I just never knew really how to go about it, and this lens has some ideas I never thought of. I would advise anyone who enjoys their family to do some research - thanks for a great reminder! Oh, my Dad and the hymnbooks? When the kids started singing everyone was on a different page - didn't take long to find the culprits!

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      Congratulations! I noticed this had one lens of the day, but didn't realize you had written it until I came to check it out. Well done as usual and a fascinating subject.

    • Teapixie LM profile image

      Tea Pixie 

      5 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD! Well deserved.

      My daughter did a small family tree for a class at school and it was a huge eye-opener for her. She discovered that everyone on one side of the family were married more than once (with divorces, not bigamy ;O ) and everyone on the other side of the family had life-long marriages. It is something she will never forget. I think it was a good learning experience.

    • Gr8fulGirl profile image

      Gr8fulGirl 

      5 years ago

      Thanks for writing such a great thought-provoking lens, and congratulations on LOTD! It definitely makes me want to learn more about my family history.

    • profile image

      mrducksmrnot 

      5 years ago

      Congratulations on a wonderful LOTD. Genealogy is a lot of fun and a lot of work. I suggest everyone get a good video camera for all those one on one stories and sharing of pictures that some do not want to let go but will share for your information/book. When in graveyard's, film all headstones; it saves on going back to verify names/dates and first start at your public library in the historical section on each county in your state. Lot's of genealogy info there you can copy but you cannot check the books out. Again, CONGRATULATIONS on this and your other lens on genealogy and LOTD.

    • Mary Stephenson profile image

      Mary Stephenson 

      5 years ago from California

      Congratulations on LOTD. I have never really been interested in family history. It never seemed very interesting when I was told a few stories. When my husband's side could rattle off all the relatives and who was related to who, etc. it seemed very boring and uneventful. Maybe they all just were not exciting enough to search any deeper. But I definitely see how some really long to find their history.

    • NausetViews profile image

      Kristen 

      5 years ago from Boston

      A very well deserved LOTD. Congratulations Bill!

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      So nice for the excuse to revisit your lens to wish you a Happy Lens of the Day! Congratulations and you deserve it!

    • nicenet profile image

      nicey 

      5 years ago

      I love this topic! I am very passionate about my family history. I love stories of the past. I get alot of information from my mother on our family history. Actually,I have my great grand father and mother's picture when they got married.Good lens.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Congratulations on Lens of the Day! This is a wonderful resource for us all.

    • Jack2205 profile image

      Jack 

      5 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD and the Purple Star.

    • ccmushroom profile image

      ccmushroom 

      5 years ago

      This is a great lens on one of my favorite subjects. I've liked your other lenses on this subject too. Great choice as a lens of the day!

    • selah74 profile image

      selah74 

      5 years ago

      I love to see a family history lens as "Lens of the Day." I love to collect stories from my family history, but not so good at discovering new members of my chain. I have stories and names 16 generations back.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      This is such a helpful lens. Congratulations on Lens of the Day!

    • LoriBeninger profile image

      LoriBeninger 

      5 years ago

      Congratulations on your Purple Star and LotD!

    • karen-stephens profile image

      karen-stephens 

      5 years ago

      I go back to the civil war..

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      I sometimes wish I could trace my history further back- either that or bea time traveler.

    • Im Horse Crazy profile image

      Im Horse Crazy 

      5 years ago

      Cool lens- congrats on lens of the day!

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 

      5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      What a wonderful lens - it is very encouraging. One of the things I did for my children is interview my parents about their childhood. Then I wrote it in the family cookbook I created (lots of historical recipes there) so they would see it often! SquidAngel Blessings to you for your brilliant page!

    • RawBill1 profile image

      Bill 

      5 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      My mum has gone back to the 1600's in the UK with our family but it is hard to get any further back than that as records were not kept as well back then. She was able to take different lines forward to see if we were distantly related to anyone famous and came up with Madonna and Celine Dion! lol

    • profile image

      DebMartin 

      5 years ago

      Really good information here. Now I just need to find the time to use it all. Thanks.

    • profile image

      aquarian_insight 

      5 years ago

      Brilliant lens - thank you for the info.

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @Diana Wenzel: For sure. ;-)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @TonyPayne: Look at the links that are there. I also have a full Lensography as one of the lens with many more links. Contact me directly and I'm happy to help, as well, via email and my blogs and Examiner.com articles! ;-)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @Mellithorpe: All wonderful and important. Do it. But, with newspaper archives now online, it is truly amazing what is available on family stories just by doing the research! ;-)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @anonymous: Yes, today is when to get started again! ;-)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @CamelliaPenny: Just do it - today, yes! ;-)

    • PaulaMorgan profile image

      Paula Morgan 

      5 years ago from Sydney Australia

      @TonyPayne: My favorite resource is Tribalpages. It allows anyone in your family to log in and add their bit to your tree.... It really helps build a bigger picture quickly when everyone can add the little bit they know. It's free to use too.

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @Wednesday-Elf: Now is the time! ;-)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @TeacherSerenia: Thank you! ;-)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @ConnieGreen LM: Now is the time to get started! ;-)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @atyqinc: DNA research is opening up lots of new opportunities to search for your ancestors, as well... more and better, all the time. ;-)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @LynetteBell: Personally, I love the search of records. They ALL just Come Alive! ;-)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @Dressage Husband: Just your comment makes me want to go search... ;-)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @aka-rms: Thank you, again, Robin. What an honor! I hardly know how to handle it! ;-)

      And, and my favorite subject! Oh, yes, perhaps it is my passion that earned it! Great reminder! Thanks, again! ;-)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      @Stephen Lewis: Good observation. As with all research, plan your work, work your plan. And, it is great fun... and very satisfying! ;-)

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 

      5 years ago

      Excellent work here. Congratulations on LOTD!

    • profile image

      StrongMay 

      5 years ago

      My family knows where they came from.

    • LoveLens profile image

      LoveLens 

      5 years ago

      congrats on lotd

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 

      5 years ago

      Great research in connecting your family tree. Congrats on LOTD!

    • BunnyFabulous profile image

      BunnyFabulous 

      5 years ago from Central Florida

      Had to smile at your comment at the beginning about 'tracing back to William the Conqueror' because I really am descended from him. I know lots of other stories from relatives much closer to me on the family tree too. Fun lens, and congrats on LOTD!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      5 years ago from Colorado

      Congrats on LotD! I really wish I had recorded more family stories before the storytellers passed on. What I would love, too, are more old photos of my ancestors. I find vintage photos to be very telling and compelling. They speak volumes.

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