How To Start Researching Your Ancestors

People have many different reasons for becoming interested in genealogy. Some just want to discover more about their grandparents or look into a rumor about an ancestor in more detail to see whether it is really true. Others want to travel back in time as far as possible to discover more about their roots.

Whatever you reason for wanting to start researching your ancestors there are three pieces of advice I would give: Firstly, start with the living before moving on to the dead. Secondly write down everything you discover, even if it sounds insignificant at the time. Thirdly keep a reference of each entry in your notebook.

Our time on this planet is short. Value the information family members tell you. Become interested in them as people – not statistics and discover what they feel – not just what they know. Respect their privacy and realize that they may have events in their past which they may not wish to be made public, even although you, as a budding Family Historian, may think they are significant. Instead of pumping them with questions about their lives perhaps let them do the talking. For example; ask them how they would sum up their life so far in 100 words. Ask them how they would like to be remembered by future, still unborn, generations. Ask them to tell you what they feel have been the most significant moments so far in their lives.

Make accurate notes of what your family members tell you about their lives, childhood and ancestors. As you start traveling back in time researching your ancestors you may hit many roadblocks and that will be when reading carefully through your notes may uncover a vital clue (even although it may have sounded insignificant at the time) which will help you move forward.

If a family member tells you something about their ancestors then make a careful note of the date and time they said it and who said it. This may not seem important when starting out and you are only talking to your parents… but in ten years time when you have researched back a dozen generations your collection of notebooks will become a vital resource and valuable research tool and it will be important to know the source of the various facts you have accumulated. Discovering your ancestors can be fun but it important to become methodical right from the start.

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