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Tips on family history research

About half of American adults have expressed an interest in their family history. The nearly 100 million Americans who are actively doing research about their ancestors have made genealogy the second most popular hobby in the United States; gardening is the first. But those two hobbies have something in common  both are about digging up roots!

All of us have a history or we wouldn't be here. Perhaps it's time to begin climbing down from the family tree and learn about your history because within two generations of a person's passing, the essence of that person is lost unless there is a written or taped record. Your descendants will appreciate your efforts.

Begin at the end  with yourself. Gather copies of your birth certificate, baptismal record, marriage certificate/license and other documents with your name on them. You won't find them all at once, but they will appear over time.

Write your life story and all details you can recall of your parents, grandparents and siblings. You don't have to tell anybody what you're doing or share it; this is simply a first draft that you will revise, rearrange and update as you progress in your research.

Obtain copies of vital records (birth, marriage, divorce, death), as appropriate, of your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. And don't forget other significant documents for them, such as military service records, property deeds and baptismal and school records.

Other items you want to begin finding and sorting are family photographs. They may be in boxes under the bed or in albums. Put them in one place and go through them to find out if they are marked as to who is in the picture and where and when it was taken. Don't be discouraged if many are not identified, because as you continue your research you may meet a distant family member who knows the details about the picture.

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