Finding Family

By The History Detectives Team
3 September 2009
Category: DIY Investigations

Are you interested in investigating your roots? Genealogical research allows you to find out the history of your family.

If you want to research your family, your first step should be to decide what you’re looking for, compile a list of what you want to know. It is usually easier to research a male line of descent. Start with what you know and then try and fill in the blanks. Consult older relatives as they will probably have information that can start you off.

Common records are a good way to dip your feet in and start the search and they will show you how to work backwards, starting from you. Your birth certificate will give you information about your parents, and their marriage records will give information about their parents and so forth.

Check local libraries to see if they have a genealogy section that contains guides on how to do it yourself. Some libraries will subscribe to genealogy magazines and may even have a link to a local genealogy society. There are over 3,000 local genealogy societies in the United States, mostly containing marriage and cemetery records. Your local society is a good place to go for advice and also to contact other people who are conducting research. You may even find someone who is researching into your family. You can find listings of societies across the country in libraries in the Genealogical Periodical Annual Index (GPAI).

You will come across familiar names, historical facts and locations during your search. Use the encyclopaedias, books and old maps in the reference section of your local library to check facts and follow the trail. Also be sure to inquire at your library about other invaluable resources like newspaper archives and telephone directories.

Make sure you record your steps as your investigation will expose other branches of the family you may want to research in future. Also try and use primary sources as much as possible. Make sure that you assess secondary sources thoroughly and always approach them with a degree of scepticism. Where does the document come from and what are the motivations of the author? Most importantly verify all of your research.

Have you found out any information about your family history? What did you discover? Do you have any tips? We would like to know. Let us know in the form below.

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