Introduction to Genealogy

Genealogy, or more accurately, Family History, is among the fastest growing hobbies around the world. The reasons are numerous – curiosity, medical history, legends – the preceptor issue easy – less intergenerational communication.

If you are interested in this hobby, now a passion for many, getting started is as easy as picking up paper and pencil. Start by writing down your own dates and places of birth and, if applicable, marriage. Add as many details as you remember.  Now move back a generation. Record dates and places of birth, marriage, and, if applicable, death for your parents.  Add as many details as you remember. Repeat the process for your four grandparents.

This creates a wonderful set of memories and makes a great base for building and recording your family history. Stop here if you want – or, come along on a journey to a well-researched and fully documented family history.

So far you have memories and personal knowledge. Now let’s back it up. Can you add copies of birth, marriage and death certificates to these memories? This converts memories to facts and may help fill your story with more details. These documents are typically available from town, county or state archives and may even be on the Internet, or available from living relatives.

Another easy item to add to your story is photographs. When scanning photos, try to use a 600dpi setting, this allows for clearer pictures as you enlarge or shrink them to fit on a particular page.

Locating photographs is likely to stir memories of family events. Feel free to add those into the story as well. Include as many details as possible about any event during your own lifetime. Be sure to include how you felt during the event as well – the person you were excited to see; the one who scared you; the smell of the food or location, etc.

Once you have birth marriage and death and photos for a couple generations, it’s time to start researching other relatives!

A formal family history will include not just direct ancestors, but also their siblings. If your parents and grandparents had siblings, start getting birth, marriage and death information (as applicable) for them as well.

Some of this might be available from living relatives. If not there, look around you home or your parents’ home for notes, birth announcements, obituaries, funeral cards, and other family items with names, dates and places.  Of course, a family pot in a cemetery could also provide answers.

You are on your way to a precious family gift. Along your journey you will find different spellings of names, stories you were never told, and perhaps a family secret. Let family know you are interested in compiling a family history. Eventually they will understand your desire and provide stories, documents and photos to be included.

Enjoy the history you uncover – personal, local, national and world – and know that all of it lead to you being where and who you are.

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