Uncover Your Family History Online

making a family tree, family history online

Who are you and where did you come from? In the digital age, tracing family roots has become a new and fascinating national pastime.  Summoning your inner Sherlock Holmes’, you can use your own detective skills as well as the plethora of online resources to discover surprising details about your lineage and relatives.

All you need is some old photos, and documents, plus a healthy curiosity to begin unlocking the secrets of the past. Here are some tips to help you get on the case! 

The First Clue: Old Photos

This mission begins by taking a wonderful walk down old photo lane. Gather every old photo and document you have and search them for clues. Enlist the help of family members and make it a group project. If relatives are uncomfortable parting with original material, ask them to photograph whatever is in their attic and email it to you.

Start Talking

Get out your inspector notebook and start asking questions. You’ll be amazed at what you can find out when you ask relatives for their versions of your family history. There may be stories you never heard before that can point you toward the answers you seek. Be sure to ask if any of your relatives have ever compiled their own family trees so you can compare notes.

Begin Building Your Tree

Making a family tree is as simple as getting a family tree chart. Start by filling in what you know and add information as you unearth it. This chart will help you track your progress at a glance. Will you focus first on Mom’s or Dad’s side of the family? Flip a coin and get started. 

Your Family’s Paper Trail

There are a variety of record types that can reveal your family’s saga. Wills, birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, land deeds, military service, and immigration records can all provide pieces of your puzzle. The Family History Library Catalog is an online aid that can be a good place to start.   

Take a Field Trip

Find out if your city has a Family History Center and if it does, go there. If you live in the vicinity of Salt Lake City, or plan to be there anytime soon, take yourself and your inquisitiveness to the Family History Library, home of the world’s largest collection of genealogical information. For those who can’t get to Utah, the library has a free Family Search website.

Head Home

Though much of your journey will happen remotely, your investigation might just include a visit to the place your ancestors lived.  If possible, visit the cemetery where they are buried. Check out the local courthouse to see if there are any local records too dated to be online.

Online Resources

There are many genealogy websites to choose from. Some offer DNA testing. Here are a few options to check out.

FamilySearch.org

MyHeritage.com

Ancestry.com

Geneology.com

Share the Process with Friends

Join an ancestry class, one may be offered at your Overture community, and share the family history adventure with friends. Exchanging stories and research can add a whole extra dimension to solving your mystery. Remember, first and foremost, this is a journey meant to be fun. The game is afoot!

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