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How to Research Your Family History

By Charles Hopkins Published 01/19/2007 | Genealogy

When it comes to researching your family history, there are a number of resources that are probably right under your nose. Here are a few places to check for information that will help you begin building your family history.

Your first resource to check is among your loved ones. Family members, from aunts and uncles all the way through to grandparents are invaluable sources of information about dates and places, events, and family folklore. If you are serious about creating a family history, one of the first things you should do is grab a tape recorder and schedule out some time with each one of your family members. Not only will you find that the information will provide you with all sorts of leads, you will be creating an audio history component to your written family history.

Your next task will be to use the information you've gained from relatives about locations that figure prominently in the history of your family. Seek out census records, property deeds, and other public records for the towns and counties where your family has lived. Along with the public records, search through records of any houses of worship where family members may have attended. This may help you to locate any records of weddings, births, and deaths that may or may not have been filed with a government entity. From there, you may also be able to locate grave sites, which will often provide you with even more information about previous generations. 

These days, it is possible to connect with other persons who are researching your family tree via the Internet. This is a great way to track down family legends, learn additional tidbits about branches of the family that may have moved far away, and hear both sides of any events that may have led to a division within the family ranks. It also affords you the chance to connect with relatives you never knew you had. Exchange of pictures and other bits of family folklore could help both of you dig further back into the history than you thought possible.

At some point, your search for information on your family history will lead you back to your family's country of origin. While it does become harder to get first hand information, the formation of genealogical organizations all over the world make it much easier to continue your research. Again, the Internet comes into play, as you may be able to meet and interact with portions of your family tree that remained in the homeland, creating even more chances for you to understand more about the day to day living of your ancestors.

Once considered the province of older members of the family, today many young people find themselves very interested in their forebears. There is something exciting about learning how your family came to live in the places you know, and what motivated them to create the lives that they did. Researching your family history will often help bring your own life into sharp focus, as you find your self identifying with family members that you never knew. For more information on compiling your family history, check with your local genealogical society, or check out some of the resources currently available on the Internet.