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How can I Research my Ancestry?

By Garry Crystal
Updated May 23, 2024
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Once a person reaches a certain age, it is basic human nature to ask, where did I come from? Tracing one’s ancestry is like going on a journey, and you may meet many interesting people along the way. Your ancestors could have come from far away countries and may have led completely different lives from the one you lead now.

A family tree is the best way to keep a record of your family history. It is not just a record of the past but it will also be a record for future generations to contribute to as well. If you're not as fortunate to have inherited a family tree from your ancestors, there are many ways that you can conduct a search of your ancestry.

If you search online you will find plenty of books and agencies that will assist you. The agencies will take all the information you have and conduct a search for you. However, you may have the time and inclination to do the same thing for yourself using a few different methods.

If you are going to trace your ancestry yourself the best way to start is by speaking to your family. Parents, grandparents and great-grandparents will be able to give many clues and much helpful assistance. Extended family such as aunts, uncles and cousins may have information to share as well. The older the relative, the further back in your ancestry you will be able to go.

Make sure the information they give you is accurate. You can do this by cross checking and verifying facts with other family members. Over the course of time people’s memories may become unfocused but many key facts will crop up again and again. By cross checking with family members such as Aunts and Uncles you will be able to gain a more accurate picture.

Photographs are also good clues when playing ancestry detective. Old photographs may have dates and places written on the back of them. The older the photographs the better. The next step will be to check the records office in your town which keeps track of births, deaths and marriages. Many states have their own regional archives office that has a lot of helpful information.

There is also a national archive specifically for genealogy research. They store a great deal of historical information on databases that can either be accessed online or on microfiche. Also check if your local newspapers have archives that you can check through. School yearbooks and church records are also good way of finding information on relatives. It may take some time but search relevant dates may unearth something about your ancestry.

Tracing your family ancestry can be both a challenging and scary process. Just type your surname into an Internet search engine and see how many hits you come up with. If you are really stuck, you can always set up your own web page that will put a call out around he world to see if anyone knows or remembers people in your family. Many people put notices and photographs in local newspapers in the hope of jogging someone’s memory regarding their family.

Remember to accurately record all information that you turn up regarding your progress. Tracing your ancestry may take a long time but it is a way of compiling a permanent record. Recording your ancestry is a way to illustrate for future generations the richness of their heritage.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By Heavanet — On Feb 25, 2014

People can also research their family tree through ancestry archives. This type of information is often available at local libraries. Staff members are usually very willing to help people get starting searching for their family roots through the available resources.

By Talentryto — On Feb 24, 2014

I think that everyone should research their ancestry to get a better understanding of where they came from in history. There are many ancestry websites available to help researchers find links to their ancestral roots. It's never been easier to find out information about family trees.

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