Here are some helpful tips to get started in genealogy if you are interested in knowing more about your ancestry. We are fortunate to live in a time now where we can find out pretty detailed information through taking a simple DNA test. All you have to do is submit a saliva sample and in several weeks to a couple of months you will receive information on both sides of your family, as well as some personal tidbits on yourself. I have always been interested in the stories of those that came before me and would always make family trees as a child. If you are the least bit curious, check out this list of tips to get started in genealogy.
1. Start Your Family Tree
If you haven’t had to start your family tree for school projects, you can start one on your own. You will need to ask your parents to provide you with as many details as possible starting with their parent’ s names and grandparent’s names. You can purchase a pre made family tree book from sites like Amazon that make it easy for you to fill in information.
Ancestry.com offers a free trial to anyone interested in researching their family history. Once you sign up you can search family member’s names and have access to centuries of uploaded documents and photos. You may find missing family information that you can add to your tree. There is also a paid option available, both national and international, that works like a subscription so you can research throughout the year.
23andMe.com offers an awesome DNA analysis kit (so does Ancestry.com). When I took my test through this site I was told how much Neanderthal DNA I possess (2%), my haplogroup (H6a1) and was provided with a list of hundreds of DNA matches in their database. These DNA matches are distant “cousins” that range from 3rd to 6th cousins and came from places as close as California and as far as Finland and Cameroon.
4. Interview Relatives
If your parents can’t provide you with enough information, ask your aunts, uncles, grandparents, or anyone who is willing to sit down and discuss family with you. You may be surprised who holds a missing link that can help you further your research.
5. Finding Your Roots
“Finding Your Roots” is a show featured on PBS. The show interviews celebrities and everyday people about their genealogy discoveries and provides helpful information for viewers. It’s fascinating to watch others go on this journey, and may inspire you to start your own.
6. Facebook Groups
I have found a ton of helpful information by joining Facebook groups related to my personal genealogy. You can search for these groups by name once you receive your information back. Or you can search the forums on Ancestry.com or 23andMe.com and ask about groups. People tend to be very helpful and will refer you to what you need.
Anthroscape is an interesting site. This site is structured as a forum with multiple boards that you can search by topic. You can find anything from “Guess My Ethnicity” boards where people can guess what you are, to boards on the origins of haplogroups. I found some of the boards to be borderline “racist”, but I guess that shouldn’t be surprised when discussing the different origins of people because race will come up.
You can do a google search for blogs on genealogy and find inspiration and guidance. There is an entire community out there of people who have been into genealogy for years and can provide you with guidance. It’s also fun to read blog posts about people’s personal genealogy journey.
9. Family Scrapbooks
Check with your family to see if there are any family scrapbooks around. Some family’s will keep a scrapbook and include information that would have been lost otherwise. You’d be surprised at how much information you can find on a funeral program from a loved one who has passed away. This is just one example of something that could be in a family scrapbook.
10. U.S. Census
I have discovered really interesting family information through reading past U.S. Census’ that belonged to my ancestors. For instance, it was not uncommon for entire families to be classified as “mulatto” if they were mixed race with African and European decent. Some of my ancestor’s race was changed over the years on the census’ and I was told that this was because it was up to the official taking the actual census’ which race a person was or wasn’t. How crazy is that? I’ve also discovered the occupations of people as far back as 5 generations through past census’.
This can be such an exciting journey once you start. I’ve discovered that information can come sporadically. So there are weeks where I discover an abundance of information and weeks where I feel like I’ve hit a dead end on one of the branches of my tree. Like anything in life, this takes time but is well worth the journey.
I’ve had friends find lost siblings, discover the names of g-g-grandparents, and more by deciding to study genealogy. Have you thought about doing this? Have you already started? I’d love to read about your experience.