Have you ever wondered where your ancestors came from? What they did do for a living? Or how they met their spouses? Genealogy, the study of family history, can help you answer these questions and more. It is a fascinating pursuit that can provide you with a deeper understanding of your roots and help you connect with your family’s past.
Genealogy specialists are experts in tracing family histories. They have access to specialized resources and techniques that can help you uncover your family’s story. In this article, we’ll hear from some of the world’s leading genealogy specialists who will share their tips and tricks for tracing your roots.
Start with What You Know
The first step in tracing your family history is to start with what you know. “The best place to begin is with yourself,” says Laura Prescott, a professional genealogist and founder of The Next Generation Genealogy Network. “Gather as much information as you can about your own life and your immediate family members.”
Here are some things you can do to get started:
- Write down your full name, date and place of birth, and any other relevant information about yourself.
- Collect information about your parents and siblings, including their full names, dates and places of birth, and any other relevant information.
- Talk to your relatives and gather information about your grandparents, great-grandparents, and other ancestors. Ask them about their names, birthplaces, occupations, and any other details they may remember.
- Look through family photos, letters, and other documents to gather additional information.
Organize Your Information
Once you have gathered all the information you can, it’s time to organize it. “Organizing your information is key to success in genealogy,” says Yvette Hoitink, a professional genealogist and owner of Dutch Genealogy Services. “It will help you keep track of what you’ve found and what you still need to find.”
Here are some tips for organizing your information:
- Create a family tree:
Start with yourself and work your way back through your ancestors. There are many online tools and software programs that can help you create a family tree.
- Use a research log:
Keep track of your research by recording what you’ve found, where you found it, and what you still need to find.
- Keep your documents organized:
Use file folders, binders, or digital folders to keep your documents organized by family member or surname.
Use Online Resources
The internet has made it easier than ever to research your family history. There are many online resources available that can help you uncover your ancestors’ stories. “The internet is a treasure trove of genealogical information,” says Diahan Southard, a genetic genealogist and founder of Your DNA Guide. “It has revolutionized the way we do genealogy.”
Here are some online resources you can use to research your family history:
Ancestry is one of the largest genealogy websites in the world. It has a vast collection of records, including census records, birth and death certificates, immigration records, and more.
FamilySearch is a free genealogy website maintained by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It has a large collection of records from around the world.
Findmypast is a genealogy website that specializes in British and Irish records. It has a collection of more than 4 billion records.
MyHeritage is a genealogy website with a collection of more than 12 billion records from around the world.
- DNA testing companies:
DNA testing can help you uncover your ethnic origins and find living relatives. Companies like 23andMe and AncestryDNA offer DNA testing kits that can provide you with valuable insights into your family history.
Explore Local Resources
In addition to online resources, there are many local resources that can help you uncover your family history. “Local resources can provide a wealth of information that you can’t find online,” says Deborah Abbott, a professional genealogist and owner of Genealogy by Deborah.
Here are some local resources you can explore:
- Libraries and archives:
Local libraries and archives may have historical documents, newspapers, and other resources that can help you uncover information about your ancestors.
Courthouses may have birth, marriage, and death certificates, as well as land and probate records.
- Historical societies:
Local historical societies may have information about your ancestors, including photographs, diaries, and other documents.
Visiting the gravesites of your ancestors can provide you with valuable information, such as birth and death dates and family relationships.
Focus on One Ancestor at a Time
Tracing your family history can be overwhelming, especially if you have a large family tree. “Focus on one ancestor at a time,” says Lisa Lisson, a genealogy enthusiast and author of Are You, My Cousin? “It will help you stay organized and focused.”
Here are some tips for focusing on one ancestor at a time:
- Choose an ancestor:
Pick an ancestor and focus on researching their life. Start with what you know about them and work your way back in time.
- Set a research goal:
Decide what you want to find out about your ancestor, such as their birthplace or occupation.
- Create a research plan:
Determine what resources you need to consult to find the information you’re looking for and make a plan to access them.
Use DNA Testing to Supplement Your Research
DNA testing can be a valuable tool for supplementing your research. “DNA testing can help you break down brick walls in your research and connect with living relatives,” says Southard.
Here are some ways you can use DNA testing to supplement your research:
- Ethnicity estimates:
DNA testing can provide you with an estimate of your ethnic origins, which can help you narrow down your search for ancestors from specific regions.
- DNA matches:
DNA testing can help you connect with living relatives who share your DNA. You can use this information to expand your family tree and learn more about your ancestors.
- Brick wall breakthroughs:
If you’ve hit a brick wall in your research, DNA testing can help you break through it. By comparing your DNA to other people’s DNA, you may be able to uncover new information about your ancestors.
Tracing your family history can be a rewarding and fascinating pursuit. By following the tips and advice of expert genealogy specialists, you can uncover the stories of your ancestors and gain a deeper understanding of your roots.