…and some helpful tips on how you can get started.
I started researching my genealogy almost 10 years ago. I am now 27 years old and am still the youngest genealogy researcher I know. I’m not sure why I am such an oddity, but I am used to it. When I moved to Whiteville, NC a few years ago I started attending meetings of the Southeastern NC Genealogical Society. I’m usually the only one there not drawing social security.
The best time to get interested in your family history is not when you reach retirement, but TODAY. Why? Because you should start while your family is still alive to tell their stories. It is easy to take your parents, grand-parents, great-aunts and uncles for granted, but one day, when they are gone you don’t want to look back and say to yourself, “I wish I would have asked grandma how her and grandpa met.”
Many times young people have told me that they had a great-aunt that did their genealogy going way back. That’s kind of a poor excuse to me considering they never seem to have a copy of Aunt Betsy’s research, so what good is she? That and Aunt Betsy likely only did research on the side of the family that they are related to her through. Since each new generation has about twice the amount of ancestors as the previous one (unless your from Caldwell County and your tree rarely forks) there is still a lot of research to be done for you. Besides we are from the Internet generation and poor Aunt Betsy’s research can be seriously beefed up with access to today’s genealogical Internet databases.
Here are a few tips to help you start collecting information from your relatives:
1) Create an ancestral chart.
Print off a few copies of an ancestry chart (you can find one free here: http://www.ancestry.com/trees/charts/ancchart.aspx?) and get help from your relatives to fill it out. You are going to want to collect full names, birth dates & places, death dates & places, marriage dates & places and the names of siblings. This information will help you later when you try to search online databases so try to be as thorough as possible.
2) Invest in a tape recorder.
Consider buying a cheap digital audio recorder so that you can record family stories from grandma, that you will cherish forever. I interviewed my Great-Grandmother, Carrie Puett Hollar, a few months before she died and I was able to give each of my family members a CD of the interview the day of the funeral. Ancestry.com allows you to attach audio recordings to specific people in your tree or you can transcribe the recordings for your written history.
3) Scan Photos.
Anyone who has ever been in my house knows that I am addicted to collecting old family photos. Pictures really bring your research to life. When I go see family to talk genealogy I like to bring along my laptop and scanner. I then go to Walgreen’s and make reproductions and I also use them to make my Ancestry.com tree more visual. I’ve noticed that many of the old pictures I come across do not have names on the back. Just another crucial reason why you should start doing this today while someone is still living to help you with identification.
4) Create a tree on Ancestry.com
I’ve used many different types of genealogy software over the years, but my research is now 100% web-based. Ancestry.com is better than any desktop software I have ever used and it makes collaborating with other researchers a breeze. I subscribe to their Annual U.S. Deluxe for $5.95/month. They have a World Deluxe option but there is too much research to be done on “this side of the pond” for me to warrant upgrading.
Genealogy research gets a lot more in depth than this, but this will certainly give you a great start. If you are interested in getting started and have any questions along the way, please leave a comment below!