Complete Beginners Guide to Genealogy and How it Became a Popular Hobby in the Digital Age

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Introduction: What is Genealogy and Why is it Important?

Genealogy is the study of relations between individuals, tracing the natural human family tree. The word derives from Greek γενεαλογία (genealogia), which literally means “origin (γένεσις) of a race (γένος)”, “pedigree” or “descent”. Genealogy can also mean family history.

We are all related to each other in some way no matter how far back you go in your family tree. It is important because it provides an opportunity for insight into our cultural heritage and genetic ancestry.

What are the Best Websites to Discover Your Family’s History?

There are many ways to learn about your family history. A popular approach is through carefully studying family heirlooms, scrapbooks, and diaries. However, the internet also offers a number of different ways to learn more about your ancestry. For example, a quick search on or among others will yield a list of records that may help you track down relatives you’ve never met before!

Professional genealogists have many tools at their disposal when researching content for family trees. However, not all writing tools are the same and some better serve certain purposes than others. Below is a list of some common professional writing tools and their respective use case:

– Online Courses: Online courses are available for genealogy and provide your first steps in gathering and recording your family tree.

– Blogs: Reading blogs is a great way for someone who is just starting out in researching their family tree and is great way to gain knowledge as a family historian. Bloggers can create content based on what they are passionate about and pass on valuable genealogy tips.

What are the Best Apps for Discovering Your Family History & Genealogy?

We all want to know our roots, find our family history. And with the help of modern technology it’s easier than ever. There are plenty of apps including Family Tree Builder, Geni, and MyHeritage which can walk you through the whole process of genealogy.

Many online genealogy websites offer free app or program downloads to get you started.

I have compiled a list of the best apps for discovering your family history & genealogy that will not only help you find out more about your relatives but also create a rich family tree that you can display with pride.

Below is a short list for you to check out:

  1. – operating systems this excellent program can be installed on is Mac, Windows and Linux.
  2. – Ancestral Quest Basics version can be installed on a Mac and Windows.
  3. – Legacy 9.0 Standard Version can be installed on a Windows OS, and if you’re a Mac user you would need to contact them on how to run on your operating system.
  4. – The Essentials version can be installed on a Windows or a Mac OS.
  5. – another program that can be installed on a Mac, Windows and Linux OS’s.

These are all FREE genealogy programs where you can start your tree.

Online Genealogy Websites such as Ancestry and MyHeritage have excellent tools and resources for your research. One excellent tool that MyHeritage has is the Photo editing tools so that you have the option to colorize and enhance black and white photos. They also make it easy for you to find your ancestors. Let’s say your father’s mother’s brother’s son, for example; no matter if they are alive or not.

How to Dig Deep into Ancestral Research with the Help of Technology

Knowing about one’s family history is very important in this day and age. Ancestral research can help us find out more about our ancestors and what they did in their lifetime. With the help of technology, we can dig deep into ancestral research without having to spend so much time on it.

The following are some of the ways in which technology can be used for ancestral research:

– The use of search engines to look through various databases

– Using public records to get information on your ancestors

– Knowing how to use genealogy websites to get info on your ancestors

– Knowing how ancestry DNA tests work

Conclusion: Start Digging Into Your Family’s Roots Today With These Helpful Tips & Tools

Achieving your goal is only possible when you start with the right foundation so it is important to know where you come from. It can help you understand your cultural roots, your family history, where you are now and where you might be going in the future.

This article provides readers with some helpful tips and tools that will help them to start digging into their family’s roots today.

3 Tips & Tools for Researching Your Family Tree

In this post, I have compiled a list of 3 tips and tools for researching your family tree.

1. Ask relatives for help: Family members often have the most up-to-date information on the lineage of their family. They might know information that is not publicly available or have personal archives that you could access if they grant permission to use the archives in your research.

2. Search at a local library: Libraries may have local collections, as well as databases which can be accessed from their computers.

3. Use a search engine to find census records: You might find personal details about ancestors online through census records, birth and death certificates, or old newspapers articles which often feature obituaries and death notices from decades ago.

There are so many resources for researching your family tree online. You can do it yourself, or you can hire a genealogist to research the information for you.

“In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.”

Alex Haley

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Some Facts About Coat of Arms and Designing One For Fun!

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In the 12th Century the symbol of the Coat of Arms was used to identify families or individuals. It was very widely adopted by kings, princes, knights and other major power holders throughout western Europe. By the mid-thirteenth century, the coats of arms were adopted by priests, cities, towns, commoners, peasants and burghers. They used them as seals or other insignia.

The Coat of Arms was originally designed for medieval battle purposes. They were meant to represent the achievements of the person, state, or corporation to whom or which the arms were granted. Generally refers to a detailed design to a cape, shield, crest and helmet.

Armorial bearings, or coats of arms, take us back to the glamour of the middle ages. In days of old, knights displayed heraldic devices on their horses’ caparisons, their servants’ liveries, and on their banners and shields. As war medals are awarded today, the coat of arms and other heraldic devices could be awarded to knights for their service in battle. But the primary role of coats’ of arms was identification in battle – the bright, vibrant colors and symbols identified the knight to his men, and his flying banner was a rallying point for them.

A family crest is altogether different and should not be confused with the Coat of Arms. A family crest refers only to the small image that lies on the helm (top of the helmet). 

Heraldry refers to the study of coats of arms, and takes its name from the Heralds, who were the special ambassadors and messengers of feudal times. They were employed by all great lords, and by the king. Because Heralds traveled freely around the country, they were also the armorial officials. They granted armorial bearings. At tournaments, it was the Heralds’ job to check that no knight appeared in the tournament lists displaying the heraldic devices of another. In battle, it was the Heralds’ job, on both sides, to identify the living and the dead, and to declare the winner.

Originally the term coat of arms was the surcoat that was embroidered with armorial bearings. This surcoat or cloth tunic was worn over armor shielding it from the sun’s rays. It was used to distinguish one knight from another. It repeated the bearer’s arms as they appeared on his banner or pennon and on his shield, and it was particularly useful to the heralds as they toured the battlefield identifying the dead.

Prior to the Coat of Arms being used and adopted, it was extremely dangerous for fighting armies on each side. Whenever a knight was fully dressed (with his full armor with his plate mail and helmet) no one on the battlefield could be recognized during conflicts. Because of this, knights were creative and began to paint symbols on their shields. So that knights could be easily identified and recognized – the “coat of arms” came to be.

Once the Coats of Arms were awarded to individuals, such as a knight or an earl, they had the legal right to display it and be recognized. Any person having the right to display and bear a coat of arms must either have had it granted to them or be descended in the legitimate male line from a person to whom arms were granted or confirmed in the past.

The designs for coats of arms included four main things: the shield was divided into sections. Each section had an image with something that was recognizable with the family for which the coat of arms was made for. On either side of the shield, there might be objects or animals – such as a dragon, griffin or lion – these images on the shield look like the animal was holding it up.

Many families today seek a connection with their ancestors through their coat of arms. However, obtaining an official right to display a true coat of arms – i.e. an armorial bearing that was granted to your ancestor – can be a long and tedious process. And for many people, they may not even have an ancestor who was granted an official coat of arms in the first place.

There is always an option to create a crest for yourself or your family from scratch. It may not be “official,” but it can be fun to customize a coat of arms that is specific to you, your interests, hobbies, family history, philosophy, or religion, to name a few examples.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun designing your own coat of arms. Of course, it will never be recognized by any government or College of Heralds (the folks charged with keeping track of official armorial bearings), but it can be a fun family project nonetheless.

If you have an artistic bent, design your own coat of arms using art from one of the dozens of heraldic clipart libraries online. To make your fun family coat of arms look authentic, you’ll need two basic components: the field, and the charges (also known collectively as “the shield”)

Over time, the coat of arms has come to simply mean the shield we so often think of when imagining a classic coat of arms. The color that the shield is painted is called “the field.” Any item which was painted onto the field of the shield was called “the charge.” Therefore, if a shield has a lion painted on it, it’s said to be “charged with a lion.”

Common charges on shields included animals, mythical beasts, birds, plants, flowers, and inanimate objects. Charge your own coat of arms with any symbol which has meaning for you. 

Anyways, have some fun making a Coat of Arms with your kids and add it to your genealogy files. It’s a good way to spend some quality time with the ones you love.

Other Heraldry Resources

An excellent website to learn more about heraldic symbolism is at Heraldry and Crests

Also, check out on the Family Search website the article on ‘How a Family Crest or Coat of Arms Leads to Family Discovery’ and be sure to read the infographic for ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding a Coat of Arms’ at

More Resources for Designing Your Own Coat of Arms

Don’t feel like making a coat of arms from scratch? These sites offer to put a coat of arms based on your last name on a wide variety of products. (Note to serious genealogy researchers: These sites should be consulted and used for entertainment only. They shouldn’t be deemed to accurately contain a coat of arms to which you may have a legitimate claim.)

17 Resources For Tracing Your Family Ancestry

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If you’re like me, when you were young, looking beyond your mother and father to find out where you came from just wasn’t important.  

Well, I’ve found that the older I got, the more important my ancestry became.  I’m not sure why.  There are so many holes and unanswered questions. Maybe I have a broader perspective on things now and need to search.  Maybe you’re just curious like I am – is there a famous historical figure or do we have distant ties to nobility in our families’ past.  Perhaps we are looking for some wild or romantic skeleton in our closet.  

Whatever our reasons are, I find tracing my ancestry awe-inspiring and fascinating.  If you like history then you will love ancestry in discovering your personal history. Ancestry and history are intertwined and unique. It is very interesting to learn about other people – how they lived, what they did, who they knew. But I’ve also learned along the way that most people haven’t a clue what resources are available to them beyond the usual – interviewing family, checking birth certificates and newspapers, etc.

Below is a list of 17 resources you will be able to take advantage of if you’re really serious about finding out about your ancestry and “where you came from.”

  1. The obvious, of course, is interviewing family members; not only mom and dad, but aunts, uncles, distant cousins.  Start by drawing a quick family tree going back just two generations and start making calls or sending mail or emails.  Here are some of the basic things you’ll want to know:
  • Complete names (married and maiden names)
  • Addresses throughout their lives
  • Birth records
  • Military service (when and where)
  • Marriage records (even attendants, if possible)
  • Property records (state and county)
  • Burial records (where)
  • Old pictures, especially if they have names and dates
  1. Old Family Bibles.  While it doesn’t seem to be such a common practice these days, in the past, families kept their bible forever, often keeping record of family members, births, marriages, and deaths on pages within the bible. Acquiring a bible from a family member is a heirloom that should be cherished – it’s a piece of family history that could hold clues to your past.
  1. Old Family Letters.  Once again, with technology, we’ve all but lost the art of letter writing (what will our own children and grandchildren have to look back on in years to come?).  But older generations tended to preserve letters of importance; Christmas, birthday and valentines day cards.  These letters and cards can oftentimes be of great value in tracing your ancestry.  They may contain important dates, facts, and places that will be of help.  Check return addresses and postmarks for more information.
  1. Legal documents are a great resource.  Such documents include deeds (property addresses), wills (names of kin you may not have known about), marriage licenses (note the witnesses), birth certificates, voter registration, adoption records, and even judgements. Your search for these documents should begin within your state/provincial and county records.
  1. What about associations your ancestors may have belonged to?  These would include churches, clubs, veterans groups and lodges, all of which may be able to provide background information for your search. 
  1. Census data.  After 1840 the Census collected age, place of birth, occupation, personal wealth, education, spouse, children, hired hands, and even immigration information. Copies of the original decennial census forms from 1790 through 1930 are available on microfilm for research at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC (, at Archives regional centers, and at select Federal depository libraries throughout the United States. 

In Canada, search on the government website for censuses from 1825 – 1926. Lots of information available on this page to search for your ancestors.

Check FREECEN for free information or the online censuses at ‘The National Archives’ for UK censuses from 1841 – 1911.

In Australia, the best place to search for census data on relatives would be the Public Records – Census date go back to 1828.

  1. Naturalizations records.

For Pre-1906 Naturalizations:

Contact the State Archives for the state where the naturalization occurred to request a search of state, county, and local courts records.

Contact the NARA regional facility that serves the state where naturalization occurred to request a search of Federal court records.

For Naturalizations After 1906:

After 1906, the courts forwarded copies of naturalizations to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Naturalizations from Federal Courts are held in the NARA’s regional facilities for the Federal courts for their area. Learn more:

For a FREE Immigration and Naturalization try searching on this RootsWeb site. This website has excellent information for new genealogists.   

  1. Grave sites!  Headstones will give dates and possible family names. A few websites to check for your ancestors are:
  1. Libraries.  Here you’ll find newspaper articles (look for obituaries, and birth and marriage announcements) and books on local history (what was taking place during their life).  Many libraries can be accessed online.  You will also find genealogy information in several libraries, the Allen County Public Library in Indiana having the second largest genealogical collection in the US.  Another good source is the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, UT.
  1. Genealogy message boards.  Google “genealogy message boards” and join in–you’ll find a wealth of information available! 
  • Try an initial search with OnGenealogy – has a list of 8 FREE genealogy message boards to continue your research.
  • – GenForum is the ultimate research resource with over 14,000 online forums devoted to genealogy, including surnames, U.S. states, countries, and general topics.
  1. Military records.  You’ll find several sources online, including NARA (
  1. High school and college yearbooks.  These sources can help locate a relative or provide other resources for your search.  Check online.
  1. Family pedigrees.  These are family groups already linked in a computer system. Accessing an individual’s family group sheet in a linked pedigree will also give you access to all of the records that are linked to that individual.  Two great sources are Kindred Connections ( and the Family History Library ( 
  1. U.S. Immigration records. Two great sources are Ellis Island Records ( and (
  1. Social Security Death Index.  This is a database of people whose deaths were reported to the Social Security Administration (SSA) beginning about 1962. The best source is (
  1. Family History Daily has an awesome list of 50 no-cost family history resources where you will find birth, marriage and death records, obituaries, cemetery listings, newspaper articles, biographies, research tips and so much more.
  1. Genealogy Explained also has 26 websites for your arsenal of genealogy tools and resources in your family tree research.

Now that you’re all grown up and interested in finding your “roots”, these 17 resources should get you well on your way with your ancestry research.  It’ll be a fun and rewarding adventure.