How To

Investigate family history


Successfully track down the details of a family


Genealogy is an increasingly popular passion for many Americans complemented by increasing access to historical information and data.


How to research your own family history.

Genealogy is essentially the study of information, which makes it important to learn where to source facts when you first start out. You can begin using what you know, like family documents and oral history.

Your next port of call should be your local public library. Staff members are usually happy to help, especially if you have made an appointment in advance. Remember, your library will have an arrangement with other libraries across the state so enormous amounts of information will be available to you.

Even small libraries are likely to have genealogy sections, with guides on how to do it yourself. They may also subscribe to genealogy magazines or have links with the local genealogical society.

As you get deeper into your research you will encounter place names and historical facts that are unfamiliar. This is when the reference section of your library will come in handy for encyclopedias, books, old maps and local history.

Resources such as telephone directories, newspaper archives and local records are invaluable, so be sure to inquire at your library about how to gain access to them.

Once you start looking a whole world of evidence will be opened up to you.

The basic rules of genealogy are:

  • Devise a research plan
  • Start with the basics
  • Prepare in advance
  • Keep detailed records
  • Verify everything

One of the most widely recognized methods of organizing genealogical data is the family tree. Some prefer pedigree charts or family group sheets. (Requires Adobe Acrobat)

At the end of their quest many people compile their records into displays or gifts including pictures and charts, enabling the results of their research to be shared and enjoyed by everyone. Many genealogists also enjoy traveling to the place where their families came from, not just in the U.S., but all over the world.

Genealogy is ultimately a rewarding experience and can be a thrilling exercise. Often, researching one branch of your family will inspire you to delve into other branches. Remember to be patient, never give up and seek help if you need it; everyone hits a dead end now and then.

History Detectives Tips

  • Start with what you know and then move onto the unknown.
  • Double-check everything.
  • Talk with and listen to as many older relatives as possible.
  • Use your initial information to draft a rough family tree.

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