Tracing your family tree is the process of researching and documenting the lineage of your ancestors. This can be done by gathering information from various sources such as birth, marriage, and death certificates, census records, and other historical documents. Many people find it interesting to learn about their ancestors and discover their family’s history. Additionally, tracing your family tree can also provide insight into medical and genetic conditions that may be passed down from generation to generation. There are many resources available to help you in your research, such as online genealogy databases, local historical societies, and libraries. It can be a fun and rewarding hobby that can also help connect you with living relatives you may not have known existed.
However, many people are unaware of the resources available to them beyond basic methods such as interviewing family members and checking birth and marriage certificates. To help those who are serious about tracing their ancestry, here is a list of 25 resources to take advantage of:
- Interviewing family members: Not only parents and grandparents, but also aunts, uncles, and distant cousins. Start by drawing a quick family tree going back just two generations and start making calls or sending emails. Some important information to gather includes complete names (married and maiden names), addresses throughout their lives, birth records, military service, marriage records, property records, burial records, and old pictures with names and dates.
- Family bibles: While not as common these days, in the past, families kept their bibles forever, often recording family members, births, marriages, and deaths within them.
- Old family letters: These letters can often contain important dates, facts, and places that will be helpful in tracing your ancestry. Check return addresses and postmarks for information.
- Legal documents: Deeds, wills, marriage licenses, birth certificates, voter registration, adoption records, and judgements can all provide valuable information. Start by searching state and county records.
- Ancestors’ associations: Churches, clubs, veterans groups, and lodges may be able to provide background information.
- Census data: After 1840, the census collected information such as age, place of birth, occupation, personal wealth, education, spouse, children, and immigration information. Copies of census forms from 1790 to 1930 can be found at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration and select Federal depository libraries.
- Naturalization records: Contact the state archives and the NARA regional facility that serves the state where naturalization occurred to request a search of state, county, and federal court records.
- Grave sites: Headstones can provide dates and possible family names.
- Libraries: Newspaper articles, local histories, and genealogy books can be found in libraries.
- Online genealogy databases: Websites such as Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, and MyHeritage.com offer access to a wide variety of records and documents.
- Local historical societies and archives: These organizations may have records and documents specific to your area.
- Genealogy software and apps: These tools can help organize your research and build your family tree.
- Genealogy websites and forums: Connect with other genealogy enthusiasts and get help with your research.
- Professional genealogists: Hire a professional genealogist or researcher if you are having trouble getting started or are facing an obstacle in your research.
- Genealogy societies: Join a genealogy society to connect with others who share your interest in tracing their family tree.
- Social media: Use social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to connect with distant relatives and share information about your research.
- DNA testing: DNA testing can provide information about your ancestry and potential living relatives.
- Online forums and message boards: Join online forums and message boards to connect with others who are researching their family tree and share information and advice.
- Historical newspapers: Old newspapers can provide information about your ancestors’ lives, including marriages, births, deaths, and other events. They can also provide insight into the social and historical context of their time. Many historical newspapers can be found online or in libraries and archives.
- Military records: If your ancestors served in the military, their records can provide valuable information about their service, including dates, locations, and rank. These records can be found at the National Archives or through online databases.
- Immigration and emigration records: These records can provide information about when and how your ancestors immigrated to or emigrated from a country, as well as their place of origin.
- Land and property records: These records can provide information about your ancestors’ land ownership and property transactions, which can help you trace their movements over time.
- Tax records: Tax records can provide information about your ancestors’ occupation, property, and wealth, as well as their place of residence.
- School and church records: These records can provide information about your ancestors’ education and religious affiliation, as well as their place of residence.
- Genealogy blogs and podcasts: There are a wealth of genealogy blogs and podcasts available online that can provide tips, advice, and inspiration for tracing your family tree.
Overall, There are many resources available for tracing your family tree, and the best one for you will depend on your specific research needs and goals.