Family History Questions

Find Your Family History Questions Answered Here!

If you are new to genealogy then you may have become confused along the way. That’s OK, it’s happened to all of us, even me. So, please do not worry as these family history questions and answers will help you on your way.

Family History Questions

This post will be continually updated as I receive new questions from you, my readers.

So, thank you and I hope that I can help you with any query that you may have about genealogy.

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If your question is not included or I have not answered your question adequately then please feel free to comment below.

I will only be too glad to help you.

Thank you.

Please note!

Please check out my  Top 20 Family History Interview Questions for questions that you can ask your relatives.

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Your Family History Questions!

Introduction To Genealogy

How long will it take to build my family tree?

Let me ask you this question, “How long is a piece of string?“.

It all depends on how far back you want to go and how much information do you want to collect about your ancestors.

I have been researching my ancestry for the past 7 years. On some branches, I have got as far back as the mid-1700s.

Suffice it to say I am still researching. Other people have been tracing their family tree for decades.

So, it depends on how much that you want to know about your family history.

How do I begin and who do I research?

Start with what you know. Begin by writing down about yourself and then work backward through your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and so on.

As for who does your research well then that is entirely up to you.

You may just want to research your family name, or you may want to go to the extreme and find out as much about your ancestors as possible, like me.

What if I hit a brick wall with my genealogy research?

There will come a time when you will hit a brick wall, it is inevitable.

The important thing to remember is that these brick walls can be knocked down and you can move on with your research.

If you have hit a brick wall then please check out my Top 10 Tips For Breaking Down Brick Walls post for help.

What resources are out there that can help me research my family history?

There is a wide range of materials that you can use to build your family tree. My first option for you is to write down what you know.

Then check out what documents, letters, or family heirlooms you have around your home that will help you tell your family history.

Relatives are also a good source of information. They can tell you all sorts of details about your ancestry, most of which may not have been recorded.

So, you must get that information before it gets lost in time.

The great thing about asking your relatives for help is that it is FREE!

Other resources include genealogy search websites that contain records about your ancestors, such as military records, passenger lists, immigration and naturalization records, and also newspaper articles as well.

Old Family Photographs

How do I date an old family photograph?

4 clues can help you date a photo:

  1. Clothing and accessories – Look closely at what people are wearing and also the accessories as well.
  2. Hairstyles – What kind of hairstyle do the women have, and the men too.
  3. Background – Check what is around the people for further clues that will help you date the photograph.
  4. Type of photograph and the studio – The type can tell you when the photo was taken while finding out when the studio operated you can close in the possible time.

For more information please check out the How To Date An Old Photo post.

How can I tell who is in an old family photograph?

Similar to dating 4 clues can help you identify a person in a photograph:

  1. Do you recognize anyone else?
  2. Do you recognize a family heirloom?
  3. Is location familiar to you?
  4. Use the process of elimination.

For more information please check out the Just Who Is In This Photo post.

Preserving Family History

How do I preserve my old family photographs?

You will need to collect, organize and scan your old photos. Check everywhere around your home for them.

You may want to ask your relatives to share with you their photographs as well.

After you have scanned them why not display them on the wall. How about a family tree wall decal?

These are really beautiful displays that will showcase both your research and your love of family history.

How do I store old medals?

These should be placed carefully in acid-free cardboard boxes. You could also put each of the medals in acid-free tissue paper.

Please remember though not to polish medals as these will damage them.

How do I store old coins?

These can be placed within polyester sleeves, polyethylene bags, or polyester or acrylic boxes.

For more information on the preservation of your family heirlooms please check out the How To Preserve Your Family Treasures post.

Research Your Family History

How do I find my family coat of arms?

One of the best places that I recommend that you go to to discover your family’s coat of arms is House of Names.

Not only will you be able to check out the earliest example of your family’s coat of arms but you can also buy cool products with your arms on them too.

What is the coat of arms?

A coat of arms is a distinctive and unique heraldic design that can be found on a shield, coat or gown, or a tunic or cape garment.

The arms are divided into 6 parts which are the shield; the helm or helmet; the crest; the mantle or mantling; the wreath; and the motto.

For more information please check out the What Is Coat of Arms post.

What does my surname mean?

There are 4 origins of surnames:

  1. Patronymic – Either the start or end of your surname may have derived from a father. So for example the surname O’Carroll means son of Carroll. Adding ‘son‘ obviously means the son of, for example, Davidson.
  2. Occupation – A person may have received their surname based on their occupation, such as Baker, Smith, Fisher, Shepherd, or Cook.
  3. Nickname or descriptive – What was the personality like of your ancestor? Or what were they like physically? So for example they may have been called Strong because quite obviously they could perform the heavy-duty.
  4. Location – Where did your ancestor live? Was it near a Hill or a Wood?

DNA Genealogy Testing

What kind of DNA tests are there?

There are 3 different kinds of DNA tests that you can take to learn more about your ancestry.

They are autosomal, mitochondrial, and y-chromosome testing. To learn more about these tests please check out my What Is A Genealogy DNA Test post.

What DNA testing companies are there?

There are several DNA testing companies that you can pick from that will help you with your genealogy research. Each of them offers different tests and options.

The main ones that I have so far reviewed on this site include 23andMe, Ancestry DNA, Family Tree DNA, Living DNA, and MyHeritage DNA.

All of which in my opinion are excellent in their way.

Please check out my Best DNA Test For Your Ancestry Research post where I review all of these DNA testing companies and the services that they provide.

What DNA testing companies do you recommend?

When it comes to choosing a DNA test kit you need to answer the question what do you hope to achieve from the results, i.e. what do you want to find out?

Do you want to learn about just your most recent ancestors or do you want to learn about your ancestors’ origins back to 1,000 years ago?

Please check out the DNA Genealogy Testing section for more information on the different DNA testing companies that you can choose from.

What is a genealogy search website?

A genealogy search website will contain a collection of records containing information about your ancestors.

These can include certificates such as birth, marriage, and death, as well as military records, censuses, wills, and probates, church records, and so on.

Some are free to view and access but others do charge a fee for you to get a copy of the record.

Why do they charge you to access these records?

Well, it all comes down to the process of putting these records into their databases and putting them online.

For an original document to be digitized it needs to be scanned and transcribed. Both of which take time and money.

So, you can understand why it would cost you.

What genealogy search websites are there that I can check out?

There are several genealogy search websites for you to choose from.

The two paid sites that I have used extensively for my family history research are Ancestry and FindMyPast.

If you prefer the cheaper option then why not check out my 10 Free Genealogy Sites You Need To Check Out post.

Genealogy Software

How can genealogy software help me?

Using a computer program is understandably much better than drawing out your family tree with pen and paper.

Every time you find more information you need to tirelessly add it to your tree.

Or if you need to correct you can understand that this process will become messy.

A program, therefore, makes it easier for you to create and build your tree.

And a program can create reports and charts, connect you with genealogy sites that can give you further clues to your ancestry.

What genealogy software do you recommend?

Genealogy software programs all offer different features and options. When deciding which one you want you to have to answer what do you want from the program.

You can check out my Best Genealogy Software Programs post which will give you an overview of the top 5 programs that I recommend.

Further Information and Help!

After checking out this helpful collection of family history questions you may like to check out the website of genealogy expert Amy Johnson Crow.

If you have encountered a roadblock during your research then The Question You Need To Ask When You’re Stuck on Your Genealogy may just help you.

Incidentally, you may wish to watch the following video presented by resident genealogy expert Crista Cowan from Ancestry.

In the video, Crista outlines some quick tips that will help you to break down those brick walls.

Credit:   Ancestry

Your Family History Question Not Answered?

Genealogy is such a wide and varied subject. You can learn so much about your ancestors and there are so many different resources out there that contain information about your ancestry.

No doubt I have not included every genealogy question imaginable.

If your question is not listed then please feel free to comment below and I will only be too glad to include it.

Alternatively, if I have not adequately answered your question here then again please comment below so that I can help you.

Thank You and Please Leave A Comment

I hope this Family History Questions post has answered any questions that you may have about genealogy. If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below.

Please share with family and friends if you think this post will help others by using the social media buttons below.

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Family History Questions and Answers
Get your family history questions answered here. Topics include old family photographs, genealogy search websites, DNA testing, and more besides.
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The Genealogy Guide
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10 thoughts on “Find Your Family History Questions Answered Here!”

  1. Owain, what is the best way to potentially find birth parents? I was adopted and know who my birth mother was, but no idea of the father.

    I did an DNA test so I now know at least I’m Germanic in heritage, but I had really already guessed that. I’m more interested in what bad genes I might have inherited…

    If only we all could link up via our blood work, but HPPA laws will always keep that from happening!

    1. Hi there TJ,

      Thank you for query. I will try to answer it as best I can. I am presuming that there are no other relatives that could help you.

      Have you tried to obtain your birth certificate? There are certain restrictions depending on which state you are in.

      I have found a very useful guide that can help you. You can find it at Adoption Birth Mothers.

      I wish you all the best TJ.

  2. Hi Owain,

    Thanks for the tips on getting answers to our family history! I’m starting from scratch here with very little information. I have a massive problem and don’t really know where to start.

    I have no family documents are very little photographs. I moved overseas and everything was left behind. Of course, I can start with my parents and grandparents but that’s as far back as I know.

    What would you suggest for starting out? Should I buy genealogy software? Will that contain records of my family tree?

    1. I Craig. You can certainly buy a genealogy software program. These are great because you can so easily create and build your family tree.

      Legacy 9 is by far the best program to buy followed by Family Historian 6. Both of these programs connect to genealogy search websites that have millions, if not billions of records. You’ll be able to get hints with the information that you have already entered in. This means that your tree will be connected to databases and if there is a probability of a match then the program will show you.

      Hope this information helps. All the best with your genealogy research.

  3. I have always been interested in my family history. All probably because I don’t know much about them. My late Grandpa (my mother’s father) lived over 7000 km away from the place where I was born and raised so I’ve never met him. My other grandfather died when I was 1 year old. My family have never liked talking about the past. I don’t remember seeing any picture of my great grandparents or grandparents from their days of youth (in my entire life!). It would be lovely to be able to collect the missing pieces.

    1. Thank you Gosia for sharing You story. Some people do not like to share their family history and that’s sad. Who knows what stories and people have been forgotten because of this.

      If you do have any questions that you need answering then please comment. I am only too glad to help. Thank you.

  4. Hi Owain, I’ve always hit a brick wall with tracing my family history. Thank you for this questions and answers post. Now I know what I haven’t tried and hopefully will keep going and get a fuller picture of my genealogy.

    1. You are quite welcome. If you do have any questions that you would like answered then please feel free to comment below. I will gladly answer any questions that you may have.

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