The first step to take when beginning your family history is to collect all possible sources of documentation around your home. But what sources of information can you find at home?
Well, you have several resources that are available to you in rooms, cupboards, wardrobes, and draws.
And it is important to know what you have got and where they all are.
Gathering all of these will help you:
1. Recording your information
You will see what you have in your possession and what you will need to get to further your research.
A good record of what you have and what you need is a good idea.
2. Wasted time and money
By not performing this action you may unnecessarily purchase documents that you may have already got.
They may otherwise be in the possession of your relatives so it is worth checking with them also.
Not gathering your sources will mean that you have misused your money and time in the process.
3. Central workplace
Keeping your documents in one place will help you while you are conducting your research.
If you have to keep moving from one room to another then this will slow you down.
It is a waste of your time and it will also distract your concentration.
Above all else take your time!
One excellent tip I discovered comes from Gena Philibert-Ortega that I read from here Genealogy 101: #7 Home Sources post.
Gena suggests that you should take your time when evaluating a source of information.
It is too easy for us to quickly dismiss something and turn our attention to the next item in front of us.
Failure to double-check anything may result in a missed opportunity.
For example, Gena mentions in her post that she inherited a china bowl from her great grandparents.
If she had not checked the dates listed at the back then she may not have been able to discover when they were married.
So, please take your time when viewing your sources. Yes, it may mean that you will go a little slower, but it will be worth it in the long run.
What Are The Sources of Information?
Not only do you have records concerning yourself but also other family members, such as parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc.
In this article, I have tried to include as many sources of information that may be of use to you and that you may own.
Nonetheless, all of these will be useful for your genealogy research.
So, you may be asking yourself what sources of information at home do I have?
Please continue reading as I will cover all types of valuable genealogy information that you may have at home.
Birth, Marriage, and Death Records
Certificates contain a great deal of information. They can include names, ages, occupations, and places. All of these can help build a picture of your relatives’ life stories.
They can also provide keys or rather hints, that can further your research.
For example, marriage certificates can show the bride’s maiden name and also her father’s name.
Using this information you can then go further back in your family tree.
Possible sources to discover!
Baby books can record a child’s birth as well as interesting information. Also, adoption records can show a child’s birth mother and father.
Wedding invitations or announcements can give full names of the bride and groom, as well as the wedding date and venue. A wedding book can also show who attended the wedding.
It is also interesting to read the good wishes that were written in the book. As well as wedding memorabilia there may sadly be divorce records in your possession.
Obituary notices and memorial cards are useful as not only do they give the date of death but also the person’s birth. This may be an actual birth date or birth year.
Either of these though may help you backtrack through your family tree. Also, similar to wedding books, funeral books can also show who attended the funeral.
Family Life and Memorabilia
Photographs showing individuals, as well as a family group, are particularly interesting. These can help you put a face to the person that you are researching.
You can also include these photographs in your family history book when you decide to write one.
What else can you discover?
Family members may have kept journals or diaries which can give an insight into their lives.
The same can be said about letters that you may have in your possession.
Your relatives may have kept newspaper clippings or scrapbooks that can contain useful information and can also give you clues.
If your ancestors were religious then they may have possibly kept a family bible. In this, there will be records of births, marriages, and deaths. They will show when they happened and also where they took place.
As well as the family bible there are baptismal, christening, and confirmation records that can be vital to further your genealogy.
Any previous family genealogy research?
Previous family history research may have already been started by a family member.
If you do own such records, or you know of someone who does, then this will give you a good head start with your research.
This source can give you information that may have otherwise taken you ages to have found out.
Be aware though that you will need to verify the information that this such record contains.
Your ancestors may have had a pastime or hobby.
They may have been the creative type and done knitting, painting, sculpting, or anything else for that matter.
All of these forms of creativeness though can add character to your ancestors’ story.
School, Employment, and Licenses
Any records of achievement such as school awards and certificates will add interest to your family history. Report cards can show their progress through school and yearbooks can also be particularly useful.
These types of information can show you your ancestor’s early life.
What records are in your home?
There are several types of employment evidence that you may have, such as apprenticeship, union, and income tax records.
These can show you what profession they were employed in and when.
Other useful forms of data can include severance or retirement records.
Your ancestor may have held an occupational license connected with their employment.
From there you can see what line of work that they were in, as well as when.
If your ancestors lived in the time of motor cars then you may have their motor vehicle and driving licenses.
These can show you what vehicles they owned as well as what types of licenses and when they were held.
House and Land
In your possession, you may have deeds, mortgages, and leases. These documents can show you where your ancestors lived and whether they either owned their property or if they rented.
This type of information will also show you the value of the property. So from this, you may be able to tell how wealthy your ancestor was.
Why not visit your ancestor’s homeland?
Later, and if you can, you can visit the places that your ancestor lived at.
You can photograph the area and if the house is still standing you may wish to photograph it.
Permission must be sought though from the current owner.
Local history books can give you a glimpse into the area at the time when your ancestor lived.
When writing your book you could include your photographs and what you have found out about the area.
These can enrich your understanding of your ancestors’ lives.
One thing that may be overlooked when checking sources of information is the health of your ancestor. Your ancestor’s health may have affected what kind of work that they did.
Or, conversely, their health may have suffered due to the employment that they were in.
Records can tell their story!
If you can find any information regarding the health of your ancestor then this can tell part of their story.
Death certificates may indicate to you either of these two circumstances.
Other useful sources of health information include medical and hospital records, and also any information regarding immunization and vaccination.
If your ancestor or ancestors were in the military then you may own some interesting heirlooms. These can include medals, ribbons, or insignias.
With these, you can find out what wars or battles they were in, and also when these took place.
What else is around your home?
You may also have your ancestor’s uniform, firearm, or sword.
These can indicate not only what war they were involved in but also which regiment they were in and what rank that they held.
Documents such as discharge papers or citations are also particularly useful.
These papers can show you where they traveled and when.
Using these you may then be able to find out the history of these places when your ancestor was there.
Their military career explained!
With all of your ancestor’s memorabilia, you can build up a picture of their army life.
They can then help you tell an interesting time in their life.
You may also wish to take photos of these heirlooms which you can then put into either a photo book or a family history book.
If your ancestors were born in another country then you may have their naturalization papers. You may also have their alien registration and deportment papers.
From there, you may be able to obtain passenger lists giving the ship that your ancestor was on. These types of records can help you tell their story of emigrating.
What sources to check?
If you have any dates then you may be able to find the reason for their relocation.
Checking history books and newspaper archives of where they originally lived can give you an insight into their story.
If your ancestors liked to travel then you may have their passports and visas.
These can show where they traveled and when. You may have supporting records such as letters and postcards.
Thank You and Please Leave A Comment
I hope you enjoyed this article regarding what sources of information at home you may have. If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below.
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34 thoughts on “What Sources of Information At Home Can You Find?”
Wow! Interesting. Things I have always seen around me and never thought might be meaningful. However, I began to wonder… it probably takes a lot of time to organize them into some meaningful and easy-to-find… (don’t even know how to say it). My wife like genealogy and she’s done some of it (not all that was listed here). Therefore, I can give her some good ideas. Thank you 🙂
It is interesting isn’t it? Please show your wife the post. I’m sure she will find it most interesting, as well as the rest of the site
Hello Owain, and thanks for a most interesting article. I have to say, so far I have never even contemplating trying to build a family tree. And this is not so much due to lack of interest, but definitely due to lack of time.
A few years ago, before he became ill, my father did try to put a family tree together. But the decentralised register record system on the continent mad his job extremely onerous in time and money (!!). Add to that that the rest of the family had no interest in collaborating with his requests of documents, the long and short of it is that he could not go back by much but a couple of generations to his.
I suppose in itself it was not a bad achievement at all. Now that he my father is passed, his efforts spent on the family tree mean much more to me.
So, who knows, maybe one day I shall take on board all your advice and carry on from where my dad left. If that is the case, shall definitely let you know.
It’s great to hear that your father did make a start. Sometimes even if you do a few hours a week or whenever you can will help in the long run. It is a shame that other family members weren’t interested in helping. Maybe with the passing of time they will be. This was certainly the case for me as later in life I became interested. I guess the genealogy bug hits people at different times.
The following posts will help you further when you are ready:
How Do I Start My Family History In 10 Steps
Top 20 Family History Interview Questions
How To Create A Family History Book – Part 1
All the best for your family history journey when you are ready.
Thanks Owain, I shall definitely bear them in mind ??
You’re quite welcome.
Wow this is really interesting. I had never thought of all this before and this really makes me consider to find out more about my own ancestors because I hardly know anything about them at all.
I live in Sweden and here it is quite easy to obtain all sorts of information about people. ownership on properties and soo on.
You gave me a lot of ideas of where to start.
I am glad that it has inspired you. There are is a lot of information that we can find around our homes. And also relatives as well if they allow you to have a look. You may also be interested in my recent article How To Preserve Your Family Treasures. You may find family heirlooms around your home too and these can also tell a story themselves
Genealogy has always peaked my interest. I love when I have a break in my research, especially when it’s on a person who was a “dead end” where I couldn’t find any more information.There isn’t anything more thrilling than finding that missing link after a lot of hard work. Have you personally done your own family tree?
It is frustrating when you can’t get past a dead person. Usually you will when you find a certificate or a census record, or even just ask your relatives for help. I have spent the last six years or so working on my own family tree. I have accumulated over 1200 people. This is though not only my ancestors but their various descendants as well
Fabulous article and great site, thank you kindly for sharing it with us. There is a wealth of information available from family members. A great idea for free info would be to hold a family reunion ask few questions and note down details, full names and maiden name where applicable, dates of birth and take it from there and do research at the public records offices.
And, I am pretty sure it would make a great topic of convo, especially amongst the females, could lead to a very satisfying reunion…and a wealth of free information!
Thank you for like the article and the site.
Family reunions are also a great place for genealogists to gather more information as you said. These reunions can help build family trees in many different ways. My Top 20 Family History Interview Questions article can be used to help people ask the right sort of questions and help them consider what needs to be done to get the most out of interviews.
Very good article. I really did not know there are so many sources of info that can help you. Luckily my grandma is still alive and she can help a lot with names and dated. But on my mom’s side there is little help. But I certainly will consider a few more options now.
Thanks for educating me.
You’re welcome. Our homes are certainly a treasure trove of values and information. You may wish to look at the Top 20 Family History Interview Questions article where I show you what you can ask relatives. This can help you further your genealogy research. All the best
I am very impressed with this website and product, it makes me want to go into my family history. Your family tree is something our kids need to have in order for them to go back to for reference purposes and to remind them of where they come from.
My kids always ask questions but most of the time I am unable to answer them because my parents did not make the family history available to me.
I am proud of my South African Heritage and want my kids too feel the same.
For me knowing where my ancestors came from and what they did for a living makes me feel proud. Not only because that I know these answers but also the amount of effort and what I have to show for it as a result of my research. Family history research though is always ongoing though as there are always new stones to turn over. But I am proud of what I have done and that I can show my children when they are old enough to understand
Wow! I found this site extremely interesting. I feel like going through all cupboards and sorting out, we tend to forget that we have precious history that could be passed onto generations to come. Thank you for such an informative and helpful read.
It is quite surprising just how much family history we have laying around the home. It’s always a good first step on your genealogy research as it will save you time and money further down the road. Thank you for finding it helpful.
Wow, those are all really great sources of information, many of them I never would have thought of myself. It is such an interesting journey to piece together your family history. It can tell a unique story about where you came from. I live in a small town, so many people knew my grandmother. I hear stories about her from older people in my community. It is so interesting to hear about her from others (she is no longer alive).
That’s really great that you hear interesting stories about your grandmother. My Top 20 Family History Interview Questions maybe of interest to you. Although it does list questions to ask relatives it also guides you on how to prepare for an interview which maybe of help to you
I have often thought about looking into my family tree, but since my family is so vast and believe it or not complicated I did not know where to even start. your website is full or great advice and tips. Thank you so much, I can see me visiting your site again for more help. Thanks
It does feel overwhelming at times when you have a large family, but as long as you start then that’s the main thing. Just do what you can and maybe other family members can help along the way. All the best with your genealogy research
Great article! Thanks for pointing out how much information we really do have in starting the search for ancestors. I’ve done so much research, but have overlooked a few of these obvious sources. Will definitely have to dig back into what I’ve got at home! I am curious, though, if you know if naturalization records are available publicly somewhere? I’ve had trouble locating them for some of my husband’s ancestors. Thanks again!
It certainly is wise to check what you have at home. It can save you both time and money, both of which can be better spent when researching your family history. You could try Online Searchable Naturalization Indexes and Records. There you will find sources for each site. Hope it helps
A very comprehensive site with some useful tips. You covered a bunch of really good ideas and I hope I can go and visit my heritage back in the UK, as there is a lot of information about my grandparents I would like to find out more of. I found this all quite inspiring so thank you.
I am glad. That you like the site. Before you do visit the UK you may want to write up an it entry of where you would like to go and what certificates/documents you may want. That way you want have to backtrack during your stay, or remember something on your way home. That’s always the case right? I plan on writing a post regarding this.
Hey Owain, what a detailed and helpful post. This is definitely an eye-opener. My grandparents have passed away yet our family know they have land in their name however someone is using it. We don’t know how to find this land and claim it back as our own.
Thanks to your article we might be able to crack the code and move forward with this investigation.
Good day to you,
I hope that you find any document that will prove ownership of the land. You never know what you may uncover in your search so it is definitely worth a try.
Good luck to you,
Great article, didn’t realise there was so much information to be found around your own home. What if you are searching for details regarding adoptive parents and all you have is an old birth certificate of a grandmother with only a maiden name. I actually started searching family history for medical reasons but when you don’t have much info to go on it is terribly hard. Your post has given me some more areas to search so thank you.
If you don’t have any documents at home then you could try Online Adoption Records. You will have to register but you may find what you are looking for. You could also try Ancestry or FindMyPast.
I am glad that this article was of interest to you. Good luck in your search and I hope that you find more information around the home.
Wow! I never knew there were so many various ways of finding information that I never thought of! I loved the tips you gave as well. I have information scattered everywhere so I think I am going to buy a box and put everything in there.
Thanks a lot for a informative and useful post!
You’re very welcome for the tips. If I were you though I would see how much information that you do have before buying the box. Otherwise you may find that you have purchased a box that is too small, lol.
I had no idea I had so much information at my fingertips. A great place to start. Thank you so much for your guidance. Alisa
There is certainly a great deal of information that you can find around the home. It is well worth finding what you have before continuing any further with your genealogy research.