Seeking Hidden Treasures — Beginning Your Genealogy and Family History Research

confusion_irritation_800_600I am by no means a professional genealogist. I have, though, been researching my own family lines off and on for years. The information I provide here is barely a drop in the bucket and is certainly nothing new to anyone already researching their genealogy. Below are a few ideas and suggestions to help you get started and/or continue your search.

Start with your parents if available. Put together a list of questions to ask. If you cannot do the interview in person, send them the questions and have them record their answers. That one gives you a two-fer! You’ll have some information on your family AND you’ll have a voice record of your parents to keep forever.

For example, there are the obvious questions to ask – when and where your parents and grandparents were born, names and dates of birth of parents and grandparents, the same information for their siblings, and dates of death, if applicable.

Then there are the more telling questions that give much more information. Some examples are:

a.         What was their childhood like?

b.         Where and how did my parents meet?

c.         What was their courtship like?

d.         What was their wedding day like?

Well, you get the idea. Come up with more questions that require more involved answers than a yes or no!

Expand your search to include other living relatives – aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Even interview your older siblings if they’re old enough to perhaps remember things for which you weren’t around or were too young to remember!

Once you’ve exhausted all of your relatives (in more ways than one), there is so much information available on the Internet and it’s increasing daily. When I first began researching my genealogy, there was no Internet. At least not one that was easily accessible by the general public. Everything was done by snail mail (remember those days?) or by phone. It was time consuming and could get expensive. Once the Internet became more commonplace and people began seeing and understanding its significance, it became much easier to research. Just a few of the websites that I have found extremely useful are listed below in no particular order or preference:

Cindi’s List. This is a great site to help you locate all kinds of genealogical sites. It’s very comprehensive and has been adding genealogical research sites to its listings for years. I found this website back in the late 90’s.

Family Search. This is a free site sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This Church has the largest cache of genealogical information in the world and they continue gathering information from every corner of the globe. They have made it available to anyone whether a member of their faith or not. In fact, I was once told that their Family History Centers are used more by nonmembers!

Rootsweb.com. Rootsweb is now run by Ancestry.com but is the “free” portion of Ancestry. Hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals have uploaded their family trees. I got a lot of information in the beginning from this site and still continue to use it.

Ancestry.com. This is a paid subscription site that I have used in the past. I have found a lot of information here. Since I’m not a professional genealogist, their annual membership is a bit expensive for me. So, even though it’s overall a bit more expensive to sign up monthly, I’ll sign up for a month at a time maybe twice a year. If money is no object, then go for it!  In addition to thousands of family trees, there are a lot of pictures and documents that have been uploaded by individual users. I’ve broken through some brick walls on this site.

USGenWeb. This is free website that has been around for years. Its goal is to keep Internet genealogy free. You can search by state and county. I believe that most, if not all, of the information has been uploaded and is maintained by individuals working on their own genealogy and volunteers who help to maintain the various websites within the parent site.

This very brief list does not even begin to scratch the surface of genealogical websites. There are personal websites, blogs, Facebook sites, etc., that people have set up. The more you search the Internet, the more genealogical websites you will find.

Offline, don’t forget about your local public libraries. Most libraries have genealogy departments and staff who are available to assist you in your search. There are historical societies and genealogy societies for both regions and historical events.

A word of caution. Just because certain information or a family tree is listed on the Internet does not necessarily mean that it is accurate. Any and all information, and I do mean this most sincerely, should be verified through your own research and confirmation of information. I have found a lot of mistakes in other people’s submissions and I have found mistakes in submissions I have made in the beginning. After all, you do want your genealogy to be facts about real people not a work of fiction! But the information is constantly changing and expanding and it’s never dull. If you love the thrill of the hunt, then you will love genealogy.

After beginning and expanding on my research, I came to the conclusion that I would really like to learn anything and everything I can about my ancestors whose blood is coursing through my veins. I give them thanks for who I am (or not, depending!)

So don’t be afraid to just jump in with both feet. It’s fun, exciting, addicting, and you just never know who might turn up to be one of your relatives! They could be famous or infamous. But you’ll never know unless you look. I don’t know who to attribute this saying to but whoever said “The nut doesn’t fall far from the tree” obviously has done some family genealogy!

Good luck and happy hunting!

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