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Basic Genealogy: Your How-To Guide to Learning Your Family History

Learning your genealogy, or family history, can be a very insightful and important process. There are many reasons why people choose to investigate their family lines. It may be that you want to learn your family?s health history, or you may wish to know whether you were related to any historic figures. For many, it is just about learning the family story and understanding where they come from. Whatever your reasons may be for taking an interest in genealogy, knowing where to get started in your search is very important.

Start With Your Own Family

Before you go into full research mode and find yourself bombarded with info on millions of people who share your last name, start your research within the family. Speak with older living relatives and ask for names, birthdates, professions, and other information that can help you identify older relatives and ensure that you are finding the right ancestors in your search. If possible, locate old family bibles or other records that may have been kept by previous generations. These types of records were tradition in families, and they are apt to hold a number of keys to unlocking your family ancestry.

The more information you have when you start your search, the easier things will be. For example, while having the name Jane Smith could provide you with a better starting point than just the last name Smith alone, Jane Smith, born in April 1874 in Saugerties, New York would certainly provide you with much more accurate information and give you a better idea where to start searching for records. Seek out as much information from relatives and family records as possible and you will find it much easier to get accurate, viable information about your relatives.

Post Online Genealogy Queries

Once you have conducted as much family research as possible, you are ready to make use of online genealogy forums. Don?t start spending big money on websites right now. There are lots of free services out there, including a number of people who are also looking for their own family histories who may have a piece of the puzzle you are trying to solve. Instead, looking for genealogy forums in your city or state or in the area where you know your family originated. When you find a forum for the right area that has active members and frequent posts, you will know you are at a good starting point.

When looking to make a post in a genealogy forum, remember that your title matters as much as your message. Typing Smith family will not get you nearly as much as a title like ?Smith Family, Saugerties, 1870s?. Help narrow down your search by time, location, specific name, or some other criterion so that people know if the information they have or are also seeking might be relevant to your posting. This can make sure that people who may be in the position to help open and read your message.

When it comes to the body of your posting, type out exactly what you are looking for. Whether you want to know information about Jane Smith herself or if she is the dead end and you are looking to learn the names of her parents, who she married, or other information, make sure to be clear about that in your posting. If you don?t have enough information about the individual to be specific, state the names of any children you know of, the decade of birth or death, the location, or anything else you may know. The more information you are able to offer, the most likely that you will not just get information in return, but that it will pertain to the person you are looking to learn about.

Don't Overlook Paper Resources

In today?s tech driven world, it is easy for us to think that anything worth learning will be found online. While many counties and states have worked diligently to put as many records online as possible, don?t neglect town and city records and genealogy centers. This is especially true in older towns and historic towns, where information has often been meticulously filed and kept. Speak with town historians or record keepers and look to see where you might turn to access town information. Whether via microfiche, old newspapers, or old files and records, you will find that many towns and cities across the United States have surprisingly well maintained records dating back at least a century or more and will likely be more than happy to let you have a look if you provide them with advanced notice.

Genealogy Tools and Resources on HomeTownLocator

  1. The "Features" section of each gazetteer has a searchable list of cemeteries sorted by state and county.
  2. There is a "Feature Map" with driving directions for each cemetery.
  3. Beneath each feature map is a "Search the map" function that can provide contact infomation for cemeteries that are still actively managed.
  4. There are multiple tools throught the site for searching cemetery and census records.
  5. There are multiple tools throught the site for searching other public records.

Additional Resources