You’re new to Family History research and you don’t know where to start?
Start with yourself and work back through time.
Even if you have a specific ancestor you’d like find out more about, start with yourself. If you begin with a rudimentary sketch, it will help provide a backbone with which to hang your work.
Our Ancestors didn’t just manifest in time and space independent of everyone and thing around them, so give them a tether to their family, and most importantly to you. This will help you develop a relationship with those relatives that lived long before we ever existed.
You don’t need a genealogy program before you start. The important part is the starting itself. So get a notebook, some fun coloured pens, or normal ones if you prefer. Find a comfy place to settle in with a beverage of your choice and just start writing down what you can think of about yourself and family.
Here’s what you start with: Name, birthdate and place, where you went to school and when. Where are each of the places you have lived up to now? What places have you worked at? Are you a member of different groups and organizations? Play for a sports team? Can you think of any times you might have made into a local newspaper or online news site? Do you go to church, if so which one and were you baptized or married there? Do you have siblings? Who are they and when were they born? When, where and who you married or partnered-up with. Do you have children of your own? When and where were they born?
Then you move back a generation. Who are your parents? When and where were they born and married? Do you have Aunts & Uncles? What do you remember of your Grandparents? All those questions – and any others you thought of on your own – you ask about the next generation individuals.
There are a lot of handy charts online that you can download for free to help shape your research and get the basic information gathered. A Pedigree Chart will be your backbone and the Family Group Sheet will help you create limbs. Once your first pedigree chart is filled out, more sheets can be printed to carry on. And Family Group Sheets can be printed for each couple through the generations – Yourself, your Parents, your Grandparents, etc..
Why do we do this? Firstly it draws the knowledge out of you that you might not necessarily recognise you have. All those family stories you tried to ignore in favour of playing with your siblings and cousins during holiday get-togethers are locked away back there somewhere. These questions help you answer things that are part of what define you from another person in your community with the same name and age. You’re building a resume of what makes you different from everyone else, and building out your family cluster which anchors them in time and place. As you do this for each ancestor, you’ll get to know a little about who they are by things that influenced their lives. They’re more than names and dates. Their experiences and deeds led to your existence – make sure you’re tethering the correct individuals to you – even if you discover some shady folk in your lineage, you never know what extraordinary ones existed before them !
Just remember to start with yourself first, you know more than you think. And when you do run out of knowledge, go find those relatives that can help fill in the blanks. Snacks and tea/coffee are encouraged 😉
Above all, enjoy the process of discovery – of both yourself, and your family.