Genealogy is a very important branch of science but also a great hobby for all people who want something to kill time in a peaceful and relaxing manner. If you want to create your family tree and learn more about your ancestors, here are a few tips on how to locate your family:
Get familiar with the terminology
Genealogy can be of great help when looking for your family, but you need to be familiar with all the terms in important documents. Unless you’re a lawyer, these terms can be quite confusing, but with a few basics, you can easily interpret old documents and extract important info. Black’s Law Dictionary and Bouvier’s Law Dictionary are two great resources that will help you translate documents and make all the right assumptions about your family.
Now that you know all the legal terms, it’s time to start playing detective. Start with popular genealogy sites like FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com and Archives.com. The Mormon Church has a free FamilySearch website with the largest collection of genealogy data. For more than 100 years, they have been collecting records, and today, they are digitalizing their collection. Tens of millions of records enter their digital archive every week.
Go on a treasure hunt at home
If you prefer to investigate the old-fashioned way, you can start with your home. Genealogists are experts at looking for clues, noticing patterns and doing research, but you can do your research in a more amateur way and still solve many family mysteries. Most valuable information is often hidden in plain sight, right in your home. Focus your research on those places like attics, basement boxes and forgotten drawers where you can often find photos, letters and documents. All of these items often have names and dates on them, and they are especially useful for your detective work. Pay special attention to memorabilia like photographs, military records, doctor records, education records, report cards, diplomas, diaries, letters and postcards.
Ask for professional help when you get stuck
When researching your family tree, you will undoubtedly come to a dead end. In that case, don’t just give up on your efforts, but hire genealogy services and enjoy all the help from the professionals. These experts have worked with lawyers, trustees, companies, executors and beneficiaries, so they will definitely be able to help you. Pros have access to things you might not, so they can dig out all long-lost, unknown or forgotten people and keep your research going.
Talk to your family members
Your grandparents, senior relatives and old family friends are walking libraries of places and people. They have a small library of information stored in their memory that can help you with your research immensely. You might have already heard some family anecdotes and legends, but take time to write everything down during your interviews and ask for specific details. And if you collect artifacts first, you can show them to your interview subjects to further jog their memory. Family friends are also very important, because they might be willing to uncover more embarrassing family secrets and gossip—you never know what you might learn from these stories, but make sure to take them with a grain of salt.
Keep an eye on spelling
Here’s a great genealogy tip: keep an eye on name variations. Before the 1900s, spelling was quite arbitrary, and records can be found in standard and uncommon variations. Some names might even be Anglicized or adapted to fit the standard of the area. There are also transcription errors. You can compile a list of name variations and common names, lest you forget an important relative.
Return to your old research
Regularly go back to your old research and try to review it. You probably have a bunch of new information that can be used to update your old records, solve mysteries and make your data more detailed and legitimate.
No matter why you want to get into genealogy, it’s a great way to pass the time and learn more about your ancestors and yourself. Use these tips to conduct the best research you can and create a detailed and meaningful family tree you can pass to your kids and grandkids.