How to Start a Family History
Choose A Focus For Your Project
The first step is to decide what you want to learn about your family. Do you want to focus on your direct ancestors, or do you want to learn about your extended family? Once you know what you want to learn, you can start to gather information.
If you have family members who are willing to share information, that's a great place to start. You can also look for public records, such as birth, death, and marriage certificates. Once you have some information, you can start to piece together your family history.
As you learn more about your family, you may want to start to share your findings with other family members. This can be a great way to connect with relatives you didn't know you had. It can also be a way to preserve your family history for future generations.
There are a few ways to go about starting your family history project. You can start by interviewing relatives, looking through old photos, or digging into public records. But before you begin your research, it’s important to choose a focus for your project. This will help you stay organized and motivated as you uncover new information about your family tree.
Here are some ideas for choosing a focus for your family history project:
- Pick one ancestor and trace their life story from beginning to end.
- Focus on building out one branch of your family tree as far back as possible.
- Identify all the descendants of a particular ancestor.
- Research the origins of your surname and build a Family Coat of Arms.
Whatever direction you decide to take with your project, be sure to set realistic goals so that you can enjoy the process and see tangible results from your hard work.
Identify Your Resources
There are many resources available to help you get started with your family history project. The first step is to identify what resources you have available to you.
Do you have any old family photos? If so, start by taking a look at them and see if there are any names or dates written on the back. You can also ask older relatives if they know who the people in the photo are and what the occasion was. Even if there aren’t any names, looking at old photographs can give you a good starting point for your research as they may provide clues about where your ancestors lived or what their occupation was.
Another resource that can be helpful is speaking to older relatives about their memories of stories passed down from previous generations. This oral history can provide valuable information about your family tree that might not be recorded anywhere else. Ask questions about births, marriages, deaths, and migrations within the family – these details will all be important when building out your family history project.
Develop A Research Plan
When beginning a family history project, the first step is to develop a research plan. This will help you focus your efforts and ensure that you are able to make the most of your time.
There are a few key things to keep in mind when developing your research plan:
- Start by identifying what you know about your family. Make a list of everything you already know, no matter how small it may seem. This will be your starting point and will help guide your research going forward.
- Next, identify what questions you hope to answer with your research. What do you want to learn about your ancestors? Do you have any specific gaps in knowledge that you would like to fill? Once again, writing these down will help keep you focused as
Begin Gathering Information
When starting a family history project, one of the best places to begin is by gathering information. This can be done in a number of ways, such as talking to relatives, looking through old family documents and records, or conducting research online.
One great way to get started is by interviewing older relatives who might have stories and memories about your family history. They may also have important documents like birth certificates or marriage licenses that can help you piece together your family tree. If possible, record these interviews so you can refer back to them later.
If you don’t live near any relatives or if they are unable to provide such information, another option is to look for public records that might contain helpful data about your ancestors. Birth certificates, death notices, census reports and naturalization papers are all potential sources of valuable information. These records can often be found online through government websites or genealogy databases like FamilySearch.org or Ancestry.com.
Conducting research on your own can be frustrating at times but it’s also very rewarding when you finally find that missing link in your Family Tree.
Organize and Analyze Your Findings
Organizing and analyzing your findings is a crucial step in any family history project. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Create a system for organizing your data. This can be as simple as creating folders for each branch of your family or using a genealogy software program.
- Analyze your data by looking for patterns and trends. This will help you identify gaps in your research and focus on areas that need more attention.
There are also many family tree software products, like Family Tree Maker, available to help keep your records organized.
Family history projects can be overwhelming, but there are some simple steps you can take to get started. First, talk to your family members and see if anyone has already done any research. If so, ask to see what they have. If not, start by gathering as much information as you can from family members. Birth dates, death dates, marriage dates, and locations are all important pieces of information.
Once you have your information organized, the next step is to start your research. Begin by looking for online resources and databases that can help you fill in missing pieces of information. There are many free resources available, so take advantage of them. You can also visit your local library or archives to look for records. By taking these simple steps, you can get started on your family history project and begin to piece together your family's story.
Article by Carol Walsh
Carol Walsh is the CEO of Creative Roots, a professional genealogy company. She has a passion for preserving family history and storytelling. Carol's research methodology centers around fact-finding and publishing in a format that readers can use to preserve the stories. Her ultimate goal is to help families connect with their past and each other.