Genealogy: How to Research Your Ancestors and Fill in Your Family Tree

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Want to know who is in your family tree, but doing genealogy feels a bit overwhelming?

If it does, you're not alone. I'll admit that genealogy felt like learning a foreign language to me and seemed like a hobby meant for my older relatives. To be honest, I didn't really know how those doing family history found their answers or even why they would want to. I also didn't see how searching for it could be interesting. I mean maybe back to your great great grandparents, but after that… I have no idea who my relatives even were.

But, after taking a look at my family tree, I decided to find out more about my ancestors, when and where they were born as well as their life stories. I learned that the information you can uncover about your ancestors is amazing and that doing genealogy is really a lot of fun!

old genealogy ancestors. family history work

How to Get Started on Your Genealogy

Some of the top reasons why people begin to do their genealogy are to find out if they have anyone famous related to them and to find out what nationalities are running in their blood. Some questions to ask yourself when researching your ancestors: "Am I related to anyone famous?" "Am I sure that my ethnicity is what I've been told it was? Or, is other ethnicity in my background?"

Want to get started and learn more about your family tree? Follow these four steps:

1. Start by filling in the blank spots.

Fill out a family tree with as much information as you can. 

family tree with old pictures of ancestors

2. Interview family members.

Talk to your family, siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, asking them what they know and remember about your relatives who have passed on. Write this down in a family history to share with your other family members.


3. Search for documents.

Look in your records and passed along records for birth, marriage and death certificates.

  Grave of Thomas, Mary & George Ernest Vesey

4. Dig deeper.

Search online for information found in indexes and digitized documents. Much information can be found in simple federal censuses, war records and marriage records. Still needing information? Visit these websites to help you explore documents and ancestry information.

I have loved what I have been finding about my ancestors. At the same time, it's not easy; it takes a lot of work to find the right records and especially siblings or parents of your focused ancestor in order to fill in the empty lines on the family tree. Keep at it. There’s a sense of accomplishment every time you find new information as well as a sense of belonging, understanding and excitement as you research your past.

How far back does your recorded family tree go?

Photo Courtesy of Flickr.

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Cambria VandeMerwe

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