This article is the second in a series on getting started with your own family history research, or helping others find their ancestors. These articles are based on information found in a new infographic that was developed by FamilySearch. For the next few months, we will publish articles that focus on two or three steps outlined in the infographic. View the infographic as a complete step-by-step process.
The third step in getting started is discovering what documents, photographs, and stories you have available to you right in your own home. You might be surprised to see how many official documents most families have filed away in their homes that contain valuable family history information. Some of the more common documents often found at home include:
- Birth, marriage, and death certificates.
- Wills or probate records.
- Military records.
- Family Bibles.
- Letters from other family members.
In addition to documents, look for photographs that might have been passed down from grandparents or other family members. Be sure to look on the back of photographs or along the edges. Family members often wrote the names of people in the photograph, the event taking place in the picture, or the date the picture was taken.
Step 4: What Relatives Do You Know of Who Might Have Stories, Photographs, and Information about Your Family?
After looking for records and photos in your own home, your next step is to start contacting relatives. Are your grandparents still alive? How about aunts, uncles, and cousins? Many of these people may have other documents that you may not have. Some of these extended family members may also have photo albums with photographs that you’ve never seen before. Talk to these relatives and ask them what they can remember about your family.
Grandparents are an excellent source of older information about your family. Many of them may have collected valuable keepsake items that might be of genealogical value. They have been around a long time and may remember events and people that your own parents may have forgotten about. It’s very likely that your grandparents may have memories of their own grandparents. That means they may have memories of your great-great-grandparents! That’s five generations of family information. The memories of your grandparents are a valuable source of family information that you don’t want to miss.
Remember, your goal is to gather information that is fairly easy to get from home and family members. It may not be complete, but as you continue to gather bits and pieces of family information from memory, from home sources, and from extended family members, a bigger picture will begin to emerge. You will start seeing patterns of where ancestors lived, occupations, where they died, and other useful information.
You will also see the blank spots where information is still missing. These blank spots will provide you with clues to other people you may want to visit with and questions you may want to ask. As you make use of these home and family resources, it will be exciting to see the history of your family begin coming together.
In our next post, steps 5 and 6, we will show you how to take the information you’ve gathered and put on it on FamilySearch Family Tree. By putting your information on FamilySearch Family Tree, you are ready to see who else is researching your lines. This discovery will easily allow you to connect with them so that you can work together to avoid duplicating efforts and add new information to your family tree.