At some point in their lives, people who have never traced their genealogy begin to wonder about the roots and branches of their family tree out of curiosity or to find a long lost relative. Sometimes they even take over the role of family historian.
In any of these scenarios, you must find and familiarize yourself with existing research, if applicable, and then investigate further. That said, the first part may not be possible if any of the following applies to your situation:
– You have no close living relatives.
– Most or all older relatives have passed away, and the rest know no little about the past.
– Family history records, such as a family Bible, birth and death certificates or old letters, postcards and/or journals, have been lost, stolen or destroyed.
– You’re adopted and your adopted family doesn’t know much about your origins.
– You have limited funds.
Resources and Tools
If family members or old family friends exist, ask if they have any stories that they’re willing to share with you. Since it can be difficult to remember every detail, record discussions whenever possible.
If you don’t have anyone to ask or you’ve exhausted these resources, try the following:
– Search Engines: A relative’s full name, last known location and/or date of birth or death can often reveal a treasure trove of results, including links to related blogs, articles and obituaries and family trees uploaded by known, unknown and/or lost relatives. Additionally, a search with “genealogy group” and a zip code or location name, relative’s name, year and/or an ethnic group name can help you find online genealogy communities.
– Online Services: Check out genealogy-focused services like Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com. Also, scour social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Yahoo Groups for a relative by name and/or search for genealogy groups.
– Local Resources: Libraries and historical societies maintain newspaper and historical archives. Public and private clubs also keep records about past members and current members might have stories to share. If you’re from a close-knit community, politely explain your search to locals, including business owners and teachers.
If all else fails, hire a local or remote genealogy service. Professional genealogists know the best places to look for information. They also often work for firms that have national and international locations and connections to people who have access to all types of records. Lastly, some of these firms offer low-cost services that individuals usually can’t afford on their own, such as DNA analysis.