Do you know the stories of your ancestors? Do you know who they were and where they were from? As time passes, certain stories can become lost, but with the abundance of information available, researching your roots has never been easier.
Where do you start? The task ahead may seem astronomical, but for most, the answer is easy; begin with yourself and your closest family members. Do you have any old photographs or other family documents that have been passed down to you? Living relatives can be your best starting point for gathering the basic facts. If you can, ask your family members if they have any information to lend you, be it family documents like birth certificates, marriage licenses and deeds, or anything that may offer names, dates and places of ancestors. If you have older relatives, interview them; they may also recall information that can get you farther on your journey into the past.
After gathering as much information as possible from your records and those of your family members, you should hopefully be able to piece together a basic framework. You may want to create a chart for yourself to help you keep the information you’ve found organized by person. You could use a “pedigree” form or basic family tree chart, many of which can be found for free online. One such website that offers free forms is http://www.genealogysearch.org/.
Also, it is wise to select only one ancestor at a time on which to focus your search. This makes it less overwhelming. Once you have researched the first person, their details may lead you to others – their spouse or parents for example – or you can then choose another ancestor from the information you gathered in the beginning of your search.
It is important to explore all avenues of research to get the widest possible scope. The Internet is a tremendous resource for researching family history thanks to a number of websites and databases which are dedicated to this purpose. Many genealogy research websites offer free trial subscriptions while others offer free searches, and this may be enough to get you the information you need. Keep in mind that each website may use its own set of databases, and therefore, you may want to check as many different websites as possible in order to get the most out of your research. Some databases offered online are worldwide while others are specific to a particular country. Major genealogy research websites include www.geneology.com, www.ancestry.com and www.familysearch.org.
While these search databases offer a wealth of information, don’t underestimate the value of using other online resources including group interest or community message boards, or even eBay, to search for photos or documents that may crop up. Entering your information into a search engine and using the plus and minus symbols to sharpen your search results could yield some interesting clues. Vital records databases, including Social Security Death Indexes, can be useful. There are also searchable cemetery archives available. If you can trace your ancestor to a particular place, contacting the area’s historical society or local library may be helpful, as they may keep archives, which could provide results.
Start digging for some information – uncover your roots and start building your family tree!