If you have ever wondered about your family history then it is time to start your family tree. Researching your roots will yield much information: old and new! Good or bad, all the information you gather comprises part of the history of YOU. If you are ready for the challenge, grab a journal and follow these seven tips to start your family tree and find your roots.
1. Search Your Memory
The best way to start your family tree is to begin with yourself. Grab paper and pencil and start brainstorming your memories! Begin with yourself and record every name, date, location, and detail that you can recall. Once you get started, you will be amazed at the amount of information stored in your own head! A little memory reconnaissance will serve you well!
2. Talk with a Relative
When your memory excavation hits a wall, talk with a relative! Come prepared with questions about people, places, dates, etc. Present your memory work to your relative and compare notes. I don’t know about you, but I don’t always trust my own memory about events past; memory can be faulty. Together, you and your relative can jog loose the cobwebs and correct a detail or two.
3. Involve Family Friends
Move beyond family and involve your long-time family friend! They can be a great source of information, particularly for the extraneous details often overlooked by family members. Family friends are often removed from the inside familial drama and, as such, they are able to spot details objectively. They can help fill in forgotten dates and events. They may even have photographs!
4. Gather Documents
Not long after my grandmother passed away an uncle produced a box full of documents. The collection of land deeds, birth certificates, and property tax records told part of my family history. It also sparked a number of additional research questions. Use family documents as another tool in your research. You may come across a bit of information you did not expect! Good or bad.
5. Invade the Local Library
Another great source of information is the library. Surf the stacks or comb the microfiche for more information related to your family. If you have a few hours (read: all day) to spare then head over to the library or city archives. Newspapers can document property changes, new arrivals to town, and misspelled names. Be sure to wear white gloves when handling old documents!
6. Search Online
Once you’ve got a pretty good start on details, try a genealogy search engine! There are many online sites available to help with your research. Websites like ancestry.com and rootsweb.com provide access to tons of information. You may have to pay to access the sites, but, once you do, the research options are vast. You may even encounter other members with an intersecting family tree!
7. Join a Surname Group
Online genealogy search sites help pinpoint loads of details but they tell an incomplete story. Joining an online surname group can help fill in the gaps. The goal of a surname group is to trace the history of a surname to its origin and follow its path back out across the world. A surname group can help locate the regional origin of your ancestor. It can also expand your family tree even wider!
All of your hard work will pull together the story of your family. These tips give you the research tools you need to start your family tree and find your roots. Have you started a family tree? Please, share!