Have you ever wondered why you look, act or sound as you do? Maybe you have a beautiful voice or some talent that comes naturally. Where did you get your hair color and why is it naturally curly or straight? How abour the color or your eyes, your height or any health issues you may have? Genealogy research can help answer some of these questions and many more. Genealogy means a record or descent of a person from an ancestor or ancestors. In other words, it's your family tree and learning more about it can tell you a lot about yourself.
As a child, I was very fortunate to have parents who spoke often about their families. As far back as I can remember, I knew my great-grandparent's names and where they were from. Knowing their names and nationalities was a start, but there was so much more I wanted to know.
Asking questions of relatives is a great way to start your research. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or anyone with knowledge of your family can all be sources of information. Details that one doesn't remember, another one might. If you are interested in family history, it is important that you take notes or better yet, record what you are hearing. I learned these lessons the hard way and most of the people who could answer my questions are now gone.
With the internet, it is easier than ever to learn about your family. There are thousands of genealogy websites available covering all parts of the world. A great place to search is cyndislist.com. It has links to thousands of websites in every category imaginable. If you are looking for public records, ancestry.com is another great site. It lets you do some searches for free, but you must subscribe for a fee to gain access most records. It is not inexpensive, but if you have the time and ambition to search, it can be a gold mine of information. The Mormon church has one of the largest record databases to be found. They are constantly adding more records to their website at familysearch.org.
During one website search, I discovered my paternal great-great-grandfather and a link to his Civil War records. I had enough information to send for his entire military file which told me much about him, his wife and children. His military history was there which told me which side of the war he was on, his job and where he served, along with injuries and health issues. From this record, I was able to locate his place of burial. Since then, I have located many other relatives online who connect either directly to my gg-grandfather or to his siblings.
By obtaining my father's military record, I learned specifics about his service that I didn't know. His enlistment record described him right down to the cavities in his teeth.
Once you begin gathering information, it is a good idea to put the data into a family tree program. There are several available that you can download or install on your computer. The one I use is called "Family Tree Maker", but there are many others. These programs allow you to build your family tree, add photos, notes and whatever else you wish to add. You can see how different relatives are related to you or to each other, which can get very confusing if you have a large family.
The various websites offer information on how to locate vital records, such as birth, marriage and death. You can search cemetery records, census data, immigration, land and ship records, just to name a few. If your relatives came through Ellis Island, you can search that database.
Genealogy is said to be the most popular hobby in the world. It's your own personal life story. Research can be as little or extensive as you wish. If you need help, there are countless people online who will assist you. Genealogists are some of the most sharing and helpful people I've ever known.
There is so much information online that it can become overwhelming. A good rule of thumb is to document your findings and never take someone else's information as gospel. To be certain you are truly finding YOUR family history, you need to verify any vital information you receive.
In all the years I've been researching my family history, it has never become boring. The more I learn, the more questions I have and I know my quest for information will never end.