Genealogical research can be one of the biggest, most time consuming & deeply rewarding things anyone will ever do. Even so, have you noticed how many of us do not pursue this worthy endeavor? Many times, at funerals, I have heard these words, “someone should have written down all he/she knew about the family, no one else knows the things she knew,” and yet somehow we allow time to pass without taking action on thoughts about genealogy. Why? Most of the time it is simply because we do not know where to begin. So, how does one get started on the path to recording your family's history?
- Start with what you know. It doesn't have to be a large amount of information. Begin with the names you know, and dates if you have them. Include your own immediate family & sketch in anyone in the extended family that you know a little about at this time. It does not have to be complex.
- Write it down! Even if you don't have a fancy chart & you only use a steno notebook, begin the process of writing everything down that you know. You'll be glad that you have a place to jot down notes as you speak with other family members.
- Call to chat. Call family members that might have information. Keep your notebook handy. It is very likely that you'll hear stories that you've never heard before & you'll want to write furiously or record your conversation for another time to be written down. You can find out much more than names and dates through these conversations & you might even find some key family medical history that will aid those who are still alive.
- Go online. Once you feel you've exhausted all of the avenues you can think of for finding information from those you know, begin the search online. There are many helpful websites that can get you going in the right direction. Sometimes there are already groups started on social medias that involve members of your extended family. They might have information that you are struggling to piece together.
- Consider traveling to places where your ancestors lived, especially if they have genealogical centers nearby that might house information on your family. This may require an extended amount of time, so plan accordingly.
- Don't give up! You never know when you'll discover a key piece of information! Do not get discouraged because it is slow going.
- Pass it on. After you've done all that you can do researching information, gathering photographs and making connections, be sure to pass the lot on to someone from a younger generation who might be interested in it so that it will not be so difficult to gather in the future. Some families have entire books written and printed with all the information so that it will not be lost. However you decide to do it, make sure that the information is not lost easily.
Enjoy knowing that you are contributing to the knowledge that many generations that follow will need in order to know themselves better. Knowing their family and where they come from is an important thing for most people to have good roots that will give them a sense of stability and belonging in this high paced & ever changing world.