How to research your genealogy

When talking hobbies or pastimes, you can’t go much better than researching your genealogy. Your family history should be very important to you – by studying your ancestors and the lives they’ve led, you stand to gain a much better understanding of who you are and why you live the way you do. In fact, clues from the past often help prepare us for the future, and there aren’t many history lessons more important than those involving your family.

Of course, researching any family history can get confusing and convoluted, which is why we’ve assembled some basic outlines to help you on your journey.

The start – researching genealogy close to home

Every journey starts with the first step, and the journey of finding out more about your ancestors is no different. Sure enough, the end result will be a big old family tree featuring (hopefully) generations and generations of families, but you have to start somewhere. To have an easier time researching, work on a family-by-family basis – research one family at a time and slowly fill your tree this way.

To start off, you don’t need to dig deep into dusty tomes and large archives. Instead, focus on stories from your immediate family members and work from there – your parents and grandparents should serve as a good start.

Once you’ve exhausted your closer relatives, feel free to get in touch with some of the more distant ones and ask for info regarding their families – names, birthdates, worthwhile anecdotes and so forth. This will make the initial stages of your research a breeze, but be sure to fill out the family tree in-between all those exciting tales.

Continuing your genealogy research

Once you have enough dates and names, you can focus on outside sources to gather relevant information and find out who your family members really were – this will be especially invaluable when researching families from 50 years ago and older.

The U.S. Census can either act as a great starting point or a way of learning more about your distant relatives and great-grandparents. Either way, you should always keep it within a click’s reach in order to have as complete of a tree as possible.

Your job will be made a lot easier if all or most of your family has hailed from the same state going back centuries. Examples of great genealogy resources in Texas include any one of the Lone Star State’s great universities, the Texas State Library, newspaper archives, military records and so on. Bigger counties also have their own specific resources, reinforcing the aforementioned point – the more spread-out your family history is, the harder it will be to piece the tree together, but don’t get discouraged as the effort will be worth it.

Also, while researching, make sure to keep an eye out for name variations for every family member – in the past, it wasn’t uncommon for a person to be referred to by two or even three different first names (usually all variations of the same one), as first-name adherence wasn’t as rigid as it is today. As you go deeper into your research, you won’t have Google’s “Did you mean…” feature, so exercise some creativity – the same goes for nicknames, as it was common for a nickname to replace a first name altogether back in the day.