Delving into your family history is a very unique experience. It can be an emotional journey that helps you connect with your past. Learning about your ancestors is exciting. If you want to create a family tree, it’s something you can pass down to generations to come. Your entire family will be impressed and humbled by the information you collect and assemble in a neat fashion. Every branch of the tree is important and distinctive. There are a lot of resources available for people who are interested in taking on a project like this. Here are some tips to help you research your family tree.
Create a Basic Sketch
The first thing you should do is sit and write down all the information you already know. Sketch a family tree, and try to fill in all the branches you can. You probably know a couple generations back, and perhaps you have younger relatives and are able to fill in the generations under you as well. You might be surprised by how much you already know. Map this out, and you’ll know where to focus on filling in the gaps.
Start with Living Relatives
Your living relatives may the best source of information about your ancestors. Talk to each living relative who’s older than you, one at a time. Ask them to tell you about their family. Get as much information as you can, such as places they lived, dates they lived there, names of all family members, and accurate spelling. Pry for as many details as possible. Each living relative may be able to help you complete your tree, and they may give you some interesting leads to follow up on.
Collect Photos and Documents
Whenever possible, collect and photocopy any important documents you or your relatives have. These may include military records, birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, or more. These records will help you in your search. Also, collect photographs. They will help you visualize the people you’re discovering. You may even find some clues in the photographs that will give you more leads.
The Internet is going to be your best source of information into your past. Online you can find access to millions of records that will help you learn more about your family tree. A great place to start is searching U.S. Census records. They are available to the public 72 years after they’re taken, so all Census data from the 1940 Census and prior are available now. You should also be able to find all types of records and documentation, from birth and death certificates to military records and more. There are many great websites that will help connect you with this information with simple searches. Some require registration, but many are free. A few good resources are Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, HeritageQuestOnline.com, USGenWeb.org, and USGenNet.org.
Newspaper clippings and articles may be another great source for information about your ancestors. If you know the area your ancestors lived, you can search the archives of the local newspaper to find references to them. Some newspapers have archives available online through photocopies, but many others will require you to go in person and manually search through archives, which will be categorized by date. You should know the exact time period you’re interested in to help narrow things down.
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