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3 ways to get started with your family history research

When I tell people about my genealogy project and my interest in family history, the most common question I'm asked is "Where do I begin?" Despite a strong interest – or at least curiosity – in ancestry and family lore, it often seems like unfamiliar territory. There's good news, though; researching family history isn't all about travelling to faraway towns or chasing missing documents (although that's part of it). 

I wrote about three ways you can start your research at home in a time when travel can be challenging and online research can only get you so far. The chances are that you already have access to a lot more information than you thought you did. Below is an excerpt.

1. Start a tree 

You know the drill – make a family tree by adding your name, your siblings, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and so on. You'll be able to fill in many names, especially in your immediate family to begin with, and as you move upward and outward, you'll know which questions to ask. "Whom did my grandmother's first cousin marry?" or "What was aunty Girlie's actual name?" will help you start conversations with members of your family and fill in the blanks. 

I usually begin with a pen-on-paper draft, and transfer it to a digital format once it's large (and unmanageable) enough. You can also use an online family tree website such as, FamilySearch or MyHeritage, but make sure to be mindful of your relatives' privacy, as these trees are highly searchable (for example, keep the names of living relatives private). I prefer my own spreadsheet-based family tree template, which takes a bit more effort but is often clearer and easier to browse in sections. I create a new tab for each branch, which also helps me decide the focus for my research. 

As an example, I made a tree with my maternal great-grandparents, Elsie and Clifford, and their children. The next two trees featured each great-grandparent with their parents and siblings; then followed trees for the parents of Elsie and Clifford, and so on. In my research, I focused on each of these trees separately so that I wasn't overwhelmed by names and could find connections.

Read the full article here.