5 Tips for Getting Started With Genealogy Research at Home

Digging up information on ancestors is a hobby for many, whether they’re motivated by a need to find their lost relatives or they just really want to learn more about their family history.

And while all the big, fancy databases certainly make genealogy research much easier, it also can put learning the secrets of the past out of the reach of some people.

If you’re looking to begin your own genealogical research, here are a few tips to help you get started without having to pay for a subscription:

Decide What You Want to Find

Your family history is a long, complicated thing. Trying to learn absolutely everything you can, all at once, isn’t realistic.

Instead, figure out exactly what it is you want to focus on finding right now in order to help you narrow your search. All the other questions you have can be investigated later, once you’ve already started to find some information on your family.

Maybe you want to discover the first in your family line to come to the United States, or figure out if your ancestors really did fight in the Revolutionary War. Or you’re looking for that great-uncle that suddenly disappeared from family records decades ago.

Whatever you want to know first, make sure it’s clear in your mind to help you determine where you’ll look, what resources you’ll need to access, and what questions you need to answer.

Explore What You Already Have

Jumping online or heading to the library may feel like the first thing you should do to answer your genealogy question, but the amount of information can easily become overwhelming.

Instead, draw on resources and information you already have.

Talk to your relatives, even just to get down the details of that long-held family story you’re investigating. Look through photo albums, letters, and diaries. 

Take copious notes on the names, dates, places, and events you find in these documents or hear in these stories. This information can give you a great starting point for your research going forward.

Begin Your Research

For some people, this part can bring back nightmares of pulling all-nighters in the library, trying to finish a term paper. But, really, it’s the most fun part of the genealogy process for many people.

This is where you’ll head to your local library or fire up your browser and do some digging.

Start with yourself and work backward to find the information you’re looking for; it’s much easier to begin with the parts of your history where all the blanks are filled in than to frustrate yourself trying to find the unknown. This may mean that the early parts of your research process will be fairly smooth and easy, but things will get more difficult and interesting as you continue.

Do your best to collect as much information as you can, even details that may not seem important. Even if you think your ancestor has an uncommon name, you may be surprised at just how many people in history had the same name, and information such as a birthdate, a profession, or a location can help you separate out the information that’s relevant to you from what isn’t.

Again, take detailed notes, and get copies of documents whenever available.

Organize & Share Your Findings

Many genealogy enthusiasts utilize ancestor charts to help them show all the people in a lineage and how those people relate to one another.

Keeping something like this, even if you aren’t specifically looking to fill out your family tree, can be helpful in future research. To create your own, you can use a free template on Canva or Family Echo.

Organize all those notes and documents as best you can, tagging them with names, dates, locations, and events for easy reference. If possible, create a digital copy of everything and share it with your other family members so they can contribute to and read through your research.

Start Over

Now that you’ve gotten that first burning question answered, you can begin the whole process again with a new query!

Professional Genealogy Research Services

Sometimes, your genealogy research could really use a helping hand. That’s why we offer genealogical research services at Torri’s Legal Services. We utilize our suite of proprietary databases and professional resources to help comb through your past and answer all your questions. Get your quote today!

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