Genealogy 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Family History

Photo by Laura Fuhrman on Unsplash

Are you ready to jump-start the unique journey into the depths of your family history, but find yourself confused and unsure of where and how to begin? Genealogy 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Family History will explore the fundamentals of research and will help you discover your family roots and history, connecting you with the past and preserving the stories that shaped your ancestors.

From understanding genealogy and its significance to setting clear research goals, you’ll begin to piece together memories, dates, events, and fragments of your family’s past, that will uncover the identities, personalities, and even some family secrets of those that came before you.

What is Genealogy and why is it important?

In essence, the main objective of Genealogy is to study, record, and trace the lineage and direct descendants through generations. It started in the Middle Ages to prove a legitimate claim to land, wealth, and power of kings, rulers, and nobles. Present-day genealogists and family historians don’t focus only on recording data related to birth, marriage, and death, but also broaden their understanding and knowledge about their ancestors, bringing family history to life through stories and narratives that link them with their roots.

Nowadays the importance and significance of genealogy depend on the outlook each historian or researcher gives to their investigation. From preserving a family’s cultural background to celebrate and honor family traditions, exploring the lives of ancestors to strengthen family bonds, studying migration patterns to understand the challenges your ancestors faced, to learning health conditions and diseases that run in a family

Setting your Goals

With genealogy or family research, as with any other serious investigation, it is important to set a clear plan of action or have a specific goal(s) in mind from the beginning. Whether you are seeking to trace an ancestor or family line, trying to discover migration patterns, looking for stories from a particular era, trying to find living relatives, or trying to discover health issues that run in your family, setting clear goals will ensure meaningful progress is made in uncovering your family story.

I grew up in Mexico in a town that originally was the settlement of an Italian Colony founded in the late 1800s. When I began my family research, my main objective was to trace my dad’s Italian lineage back to the foundation of the colony and find a connection with lost relatives in Italy. However, as I started making interesting discoveries, I decided to expand my research goal to the story of the entire Italian colony and all of its founders.

What is the Goal of your Family Research?

Gathering Information

Start with what you already know about your family. Your memories, photographs, family stories, and traditions are the foundation of your research. Every single piece of information is a potential clue to piecing together the story of your family.

Write what you know, then have structured conversations and interviews with your parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and other relatives. Pay attention to their stories and the language they use, and write down everything they tell you. Many stories and facts might not mean much at that specific moment, but believe me, they can turn into big clues that can guide us to new discoveries at any given point.

To help you jump-start your personal journey, I wrote “Family History Starts with Me” as a guide with specific questions tailored to find clues and patterns in your family history from documents, people, and information that you can easily obtain.

Download FREE the first section of this detailed guide that contains a chapter called “Birth and Childhood”, 17 Personal Questions about you and your family, and 1 exercise called “Memory Lane” to start building your family tree.

Family History Start with Me
Fill out the following form to download the FREE guide FAMILY HISTORY STARTS WITH ME
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You can purchase the complete “Family History Starts with Me” ebook on Amazon.

It contains 90+ questions and 5 Exercises that will help you travel through memory lane in search of your Family History.

Hope you enjoy it! Who knows, maybe this guide could be the starting point of your greatest adventure into knowing your ancestors. 

Online Resources

Some Popular genealogy websites and databases great for all beginners and experienced researchers are the following:

  1. Family Search: It is a FREE platform operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It has a massive collection of birth, marriage, and death records from around the world.
  2. Ancestry: It is one of the most well-known platforms. You can open an account and build your genealogical tree for FREE, but you will need a paid subscription to research its historical records. It offers DNA testing services to trace your ancestors’ roots.
  3. My Heritage: Known for its user-friendly interface, this platform has powerful search capabilities and a large record database. You can open an account and build your genealogical tree for FREE, but you will need to pay a subscription to research historical records. It offers DNA testing.
  4. Find A Grave: It is a database of cemetery records and headstone images. FindAGrave can help you locate the final resting places of your ancestors.
  5. Billion Graves: It is the world’s largest resource for searchable GPS cemetery data. It has partnered with Family Search, My Heritage, and Findmypast. Whatever you find on BillionGraves is copied onto the partner sites!
  6. Geni: A collaborative family tree platform that allows users to work together on building a shared family tree.
  7. USGenWeb: A volunteer-driven project, USGenWeb provides free access to genealogical resources and records specific to U.S. states and counties. No need to register or log in.
  8. Ellis Island Database: If you have immigrant ancestors who came through Ellis Island, this database provides passenger lists and other immigration-related records.
  9. National Archives: The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) website offers access to census records, military records, and other historical documents.
  10. Cyndi’s List: This is a comprehensive directory of online genealogy resources, organized by category and topic.

Remember that some of these platforms may offer free access to certain records but may also have subscription-based services for more advanced research. It’s a good idea to explore a few and see which ones align best with your research goals.

Local Resources

Local records offer a distinct perspective that online databases might not capture. Historical societies often house photographs, newspapers, and personal narratives that give depth to your research. Visiting local records at a place where your family lived fosters a connection to your ancestral homeland and enriches the journey of preserving the legacy of your ancestors.

Photo by Cheryl Winn-Boujnida on Unsplash

If you’re feeling a bit lost or uncertain about where to begin —Genealogy 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Family History will point you in the right direction and help you begin to unearth your family roots and history. From comprehending the significance of genealogy to setting clear research goals, this guide helps you rekindle connections to the past and cherish the stories that have shaped generations. By recording memories, dates, events, and stories, you’ll soon begin to unveil the identities, personalities, and even some well-guarded family secrets of those who came before you.

“Warning: Side effects of subscribing to ‘Precisely Me’ may include increased smiles, boosted confidence, and epic self-discovery.”

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