Learning about your family history can be exciting, and can be full of possibilities. However, you may not know where to start and may feel overwhelmed by the task. Even though it can be a big project, and there can be lots of different avenues to take, that does not mean that it needs to be overwhelming, or difficult. Getting to know more about your family’s history, and about history, in general, can be exciting, and can open your mind to new possibilities. If you want to know more about your family’s past, but don’t know where to start, here are some things to think about, and some tips for getting started.
Mentally Prepare Before You Begin
Even though you shouldn’t let yourself feel overwhelmed by the prospect of learning more about your family’s history, it can be a big task, and it may unearth some information that can be emotionally impactful. Not only that but if you also end up contacting long-lost family members, then there can be another emotional component that you need to be ready for.
Not only do you stand to gain lots of new information, but you may also gain new connections and relationships, too. Beyond that doing this kind of research can change the way that you view your family in a big way. Being prepared for all of this can help you get into the right mindset to begin, and can help you be more resilient throughout the journey, no matter what you learn.
Start With Talking To Family Members
To being your journey into your family’s history, it can be a good idea to start talking to your family first. It can be easiest to begin by talking to the family members that you are closest to. Additionally, writing down any information that you already know can be a great starting point. This will give you a springboard to start from. Even if you don’t have much information to start with, having anything at all can give you a clue about where to begin and what direction you should take after that.
After you have talked to any close family members that you have you can then start looking online for more information. From looking up 1950 census records to ones that go even further back, or looking into old wedding certificates you can begin to piece together more information. Finding these kinds of documents online can not only help you to pinpoint specific dates and times, but it can also help you verify the stories that you have already been told. This will not only help you to fill out your family tree, but it will also help you to gain a better understanding of how things worked at different points in time in the past.
Go To Your Local Library or Genealogy Center
After you have found all the information you can online, going to your local library or genealogy center can be a good idea. These establishments often have lots of resources for doing research, as well as looking through old documents. Employees there may also be able to guide you in the direction of other resources that could be helpful when you are looking to put together the pieces of your family’s past. Along with that, they may also be able to give you pointers on how to conduct research in general, which can help you find quality sources and stay organized in the process.
Talk To People In Your Community
Talking to people in your community may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you are researching your family, but the reality is that your community members could be a valuable resource for information that pertains to your family. This can be especially true if your family has spent many generations in the same location, like the same small town. There may be community members still living that remember elder family members of yours.
Additionally, even if you can’t find anyone in the community who knew elder family members of yours, you may still be able to learn from them. Talking to elder members of your community can help you learn more about what life was like in the past, and can help provide context for your family’s lives, even if you don’t learn the exact details. This can help flesh out any information you have, and give you a fuller picture of the past.
Reconnect With Long-Lost Family Members
If you have done lots of research but are still looking for more information that you cannot find in any public records, it could be a good idea to reach out and connect with some long-lost family members. This may feel difficult to do to some because reaching out to family can be emotional, especially if they are not open to reconnecting. That said, it can be a great way to learn more about your family and their past.
When reaching out to family members that you have not spoken to in a long time, or who you may not have spoken to ever, you need to make sure that you are approaching things the right way. It can be important to stick to the point when first contacting them, and be open to the possibility that they may not be interested in getting to know you better, or they may not have the information that you are looking for.
Be Open To Lots of Possibilities
When looking into your family’s past, you need to be open to lots of possibilities. This is particularly important if you intend to reach out to long-lost family members. Besides the fact that they may not want to connect, or that they may not have the information that you are looking for, they may simply be too busy to keep in touch about things like your family’s history.
However, you should not let that stop you from reaching out and trying to gain information. The reality is that there is nothing to lose from reaching out and that there are actually many things to potentially gain. When you look into your family’s past, you can learn so much about what was important to your family, and what your family members have accomplished throughout time. Beyond that, you can gain a new-found understanding of and appreciation for the past, no matter how far back you look. You might find that you have a passion for uncovering hidden histories, and you could find yourself looking back further than you expected.
A Few Final Thoughts
Deciding to embark on the journey of researching your family’s past can be not only interesting but full of emotions and new discoveries. You may end up learning lots of new things not just about family members from the past, but about family members that are currently living, and about yourself, as well. This can be challenging in some ways, but it can also bring with it lots of excitement. By being prepared for lots of different possibilities and being willing to go wherever the path leads you, you can gain lots of new knowledge and get to see your family in a whole new light.