Are you interested to know more about your ancestors? Then my 10 ways to find your family history post will show you how you can do just that. There are many options that are available to you so it is good to know where you can turn to for help.
Before you go joining a genealogy site I urge you to first look at the free options that are available to you. My Tips For A Free Family History Search post discusses many ways that you can trace your family tree for FREE!
Sometimes you will need to spend some money. And that is quite alright. It’s the same for any hobby. Whether it’s golf, scrap booking, gardening or whatever, you have to hand over your cash to carry on with your pastime.
And genealogy or family history is no different. So just be prepared for this scenario.
10 Ways to find your family history:
In this post I will highlight to you both the free and paid options that are available to you. I do urge you first to try to find out as much as you can about your family history for free before you spend any money.
10 Ways To Find Your Family History!
1. Start With Yourself
If you want to build a family tree then the best place to start is with yourself. You need to work with what you know and build from that. You obviously know details about yourself, your parents, probably your grandparents and maybe your great grandparents.
Ask yourself some questions:
- What are their names?
- When and where were they born?
- When and where were they married?
- When and where did they die, (if applicable)?
So start to write this information down and build your family tree from what you know. What you don’t know can always be added later by using the other ways that I will discuss in the post.
2. Look Around Your Home
Do you know that there are countless amounts of information that you can find around your home? These can be found anywhere, from up in the loft, down in the basement, in a shoe box at the back of a cupboard, or tucked away in the back of a drawer.
So what kind of sources of information can you find:
- Birth, marriage and death records
- Baby books
- Wedding invitations and announcements
- Obituary notices and memorial cards
- Journals or diaries
- Family bible
- School awards
- Apprenticeship, union and income tax records
- Severance or retirement records
- Occupational licenses
- Motor vehicle and driving licenses
- Deeds, mortgages and leases
- Medical and hospital records
- Medals, ribbons or insignias
- Uniform, firearm or sword
- Discharge papers or citations
- Naturalization papers
- Passport and visas
There are probably more sources of information that I haven’t listed here. So why not go and check out what you can find around your home. Why not tell me below what you have found?
3. Ask Your Relatives
Your relatives will also have useful information that you can use for your family history research. But you do not have to stop with relatives. You could also ask friends, neighbors and people who worked with your ancestors.
The great thing about asking your relatives is that you can get this information for free. Unless you want to treat them out for a meal at a restaurant where you can talk, or bring round to their house some flowers, chocolates or whatever other gift you would like to bring.
I do urge you though to ask anyone who knew your relatives. Not only will they save you time tracking down information that they already know but some information that they possess may not be recorded anyway. This is certainly true with the priceless information that my father has passed on to me.
4. Check Out Local Library and Archives
Your local library should have a section on the local history of the area. Reading these books will give you an idea as to what life was like for your ancestor. So you could find out what work was available, what was the land like, any significant events that happened in the area, and so on.
And if you are not sure where to find the information that you are looking for then you can always ask the friendly library staff for help.
The information that you can find at your nearest archives, (or the archives where your ancestor lived), can include what you can find at home. But if you have exhausted that option then the archives is definitely your next step.
What can you find at the archives:
- Birth, death and marriage certificates
- Electoral register
- Business and residential addresses
- Passenger lists
- Military records
- Wills and probate
- Land and properties
- Civil and criminal justice
- Education records
- Mental health records
5. Check Out Genealogical Societies
Known as genealogical societies in the United States, or rather family history societies in the United Kingdom are pretty similar to a library. You can find out what the history of the area where your ancestor lived and get directed to the information that you are looking for.
These societies publish guide books and documents containing parish, chapel and school registers. They may also produce books on military records and monumental inscriptions as well.
You may be lucky and purchase an unwanted birth, death or marriage certificate of your ancestor at a discounted price. These certificates may be available at a reduced price because another member may have purchased them by mistake.
There will be an annual charge to become a member of this society. I do urge you to consider this option as they can personally help you with your query. Remember that these are people who are passionate about family history and so they try their best to help you.
6. Visit Cemeteries
Well, what can you find out about your ancestors from cemeteries. Well quite a bit really. The information that you can find out at cemeteries can actually help you to break down brick walls in your research.
But how you are asking yourself?
By the inscriptions on the monuments or headstones of your ancestors. These inscriptions can give you information that you can use to build your family tree.
What information can you find on headstones:
- Name of your ancestor
- Name of their partner and death details
- Name of children
- When your ancestor was born
- Where they lived
- When they died
I have personally gained a lot of facts about my family history by visiting the cemeteries of where my ancestor lived. It may take you a while to find your ancestors graves and you will need to visit many cemeteries but this information is quite literally for free!
So why not turn it into a day trip?!
7. Genealogy Sites
There are several genealogy search websites that contain millions, if not billions of records, within their databases. The two main sites that come to mind are Ancestry and FindMyPast. But there is also MyHeritage, Archives, Genealogy Bank and more besides.
Most of these you will need to subscribe to in order to access these records. But if you cannot find the information that you are looking for then I do suggest, no rather I urge you to join one of these sites.
Why do I want you to join these sites?
Well because I don’t want anything to step in my way to finding my ancestors. And if that means that I need to pay for it then so be it. I rather pay and get that information then miss out and not learn about my ancestors.
But if you do not want to pay then why not check out my guide to 10 Free Genealogy Sites.
8. Try Google
Google can connect you with your ancestors. There is zillions and zillions of information out there online. And we can find our ancestors by using this impressive search engine.
We may be lucky and find what we are looking for. And we may be even luckier when that information is free. But do you know how to effectively use Google and get the results that you are hoping for?
Maybe not. So I suggest that you check out the Google for Genealogy Premium Collection. It will show you how to effectively help to find your ancestors, and show you all about Google Alerts, Google Books and also Google+.
9. DNA Testing
DNA testing has certainly helped people to find out their ethnicity. It has helped them to see where they need to look next and has also helped them to break down brick walls in their research.
There are 3 main DNA companies today that can help you and they are 23andMe, AncestryDNA and Family Tree DNA. These companies will look at markers within your DNA and based on these results they can tell you a lot of information, more than I can say here.
But suffice it to say this is a growing area in the world of genealogy and with scientific advancements the results you will get better and better.
10. Get Professional Help
For whatever reason you may decide that you would rather seek the advice and help from a professional genealogist. It maybe because you have exhausted all options that are available to you. Or you just do not have the time to trace your family history but you are still interested to know where you come from.
A professional will know where to look and how to look for the information that you want to know about your ancestors. You will though need to specify to them how far back you will want them to research and the level of information that you want.
It is costly to hire a professional compared to doing the research yourself but if it’s the only option available to you then I say go for it.
Bonus Way To Find Your Family History!
Well this post was going to show you just 10 ways to finding your family history. But I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to add one more to the list.
Believe it or not but you can find your ancestors through a genealogy software program. These programs can be used to help you create and build your family tree. Most of them are pretty easy to use and you can start building that tree of yours straight away.
But they also have a handy feature where they are connected to the genealogy sites that I mentioned earlier. Different programs though will be connected to different sites, but the feature is pretty much the same.
You enter the name of your ancestor and information that you do know about him or her. Then pops up a light bulb, a leaf or whatever to show you that there is a possible record of your ancestor. You then have to sift through these records to see if they are actually about your ancestor.
It is a bit hit and miss, but the more information that you do enter about your ancestor then the better chance you will find some useful records that you can use for your research.
Thank You and Please Leave A Comment
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