Genealogy For Beginners: Finding Our Ancestors

black and white photos on a wooden background

Do you wonder where your family came from?

Are you the first generation to live where you live now?

Who was the first in your family to graduate from college, own their own home or immigrate to your country?

These questions (and so much more) can be answered by peeking into your genealogy.

When I started looking into my family history, I found out that one of my relatives died by falling off of a roof.

When the kids went to school that morning, they said goodbye to dad, who was working on the roof. Sometime during that day, he fell off the roof and died. That morning was the last time they saw their dad alive.

So sad and yet stories like this remind us how precious and fleeting life can be.

When you start doing your genealogy and filling in your family tree, you can learn so much about your ancestors and how they lived before you came along.

a vintage photo of 2 sisters

How do you get started?

  1. Find out what your family already has recorded. Does your family have a family bible or book they keep records in? Do they have old pictures or stories you want to record? These family histories are a great place to start to fill in your family tree.
  2. Use ancestry.com. Ancestry.com is a great resource to use to find government and personal records of your family members. It is a paid service, but they have a free trial where you can get alot of your information in a short amount of time.
  3. Set a goal. What do you really want to learn about these people that came before you? Do you want to know where they came from? Do you want to know their education or their big life events? If you set a goal to (for instance) find out who was the first person to immigrate to America in your history, that can give you an idea of how far back you need to go to get there.
  4. Do your own research. Once you get the names and dates from other family members or online, your journey doesn’t stop there. Can you find out about their daily lives? Were they rich or poor? Were they educated? Did they fight in a war or participate in government? These stories really bring these people to life, where you feel like you know them.

Who can you ask for help?

  • Your oldest living relative– Do you have a grandmother or great grandmother you can ask about your family? Maybe you can ask her questions and audio or video record her answers for your children. Don’t wait! You never know how long these people will be around, and when they are gone you will be glad you have this record. Don’t know what to ask? Check out this website to get the ideas flowing: 30 Life Questions You Need To Ask Your Grandparents.
  • The LDS Church– The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has a wide variety of information about genealogy and they can help you find your ancestors for free, even if you aren’t a member of their church. They have genealogy centers at many of their church buildings where people volunteer during the week to help do genealogy work. It is a great resource.
  • Online groups and resources– Besides ancestry.com, there are other websites, facebook groups and other forums that can help you with your research. Even Google may help you find newspaper articles or other information on an ancestor. It really is amazing everything that we have at our finger tips these days.

What do you do with the information you find?

Now that you have the information, what do you do with it?

  1. Keep a written record for your family. Keep a physical and digital copy of your family history records, in case one is lost. Share these with your family members so that they are more likely to last.
  2. Make a visual record to make the names come to life. If you can find pictures of the people, that makes it even more real. Now of course this will be harder the farther back you go. But you should be able to find photos for several generations back anyway.
  3. Keep digging. You can always go back further or find out more information. You may uncover things that your current family members didn’t even know about.
  4. Share it with your family. Family history can bring families together, so share what you have found with living relatives so they can enjoy the stories too.

Here are some ideas to make a visual display of your family:

Family Tree Wall Decal @ Amazon

Family Tree Chalkboard @ Your Home Based Mom

Family History Binder @ Do As I’m Doing

Family history is fun and can be addictive. With the internet, there is no end to the information you can find. If you tap into a famous or royal line, it is usually easier to go back further in time because records were scarce for common people “back in the day”.

Once you find out about your family history, share it with other members of your family near and far. You may connect with relatives online that you didn’t know existed until you started your research.

Genealogy can be something fun for you and sharing that information can be a great gift to those that come in later generations. So get out there and find out what you can about your family today!

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How many generations back do you know about your family? Please let us know in the comments below. And if this post was helpful, please share. Thanks!
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