Exploring Your Family’s Past

(Nebraska State Historical Society)

I love everything about history. What I find most stimulating are situations that call for some serious historical investigation. History would not be as fun if everything was plain and simple, laid out for us, requiring little to no effort to explore the past. If you love that rigorous researching and exploring, try exploring your family history. The only warning I have for those aspiring to explore their family tree, beware, it is addictive.

Granpda and his first car
Granpda and his first car

You might ask where to start.  The best thing to do is to get a recorder or pen & paper and start talking to relatives. Talk to your grand parents or older relative to record some of their history. Where and when were they born? What were their parents’ names, birth dates, and death dates. These are some good points start at, and they will help expand the tree later. I was only 15 when my grandpa died, but I remember asking him about his childhood, when we met my grandma, and other interesting things. Once these people are gone, their history goes with them.

There are some really good sites out there that can help you dig deeper. Ancestry is a good site, although it does charge a monthly fee. You might want to check to see if you have access to the site if you are a student at an academic institution. Another site that has free features is familysearch.orgHeritageQuest Online is another amazing research tool for family history. Check with your local library to see if you have access to it through your library account. Acquiring information is one ordeal, storing it is another.

Receipt for Grandpa from Great Grandpa

Another tip when doing family history is to keep things very organized, or you could risk loosing them in the mass of information you gather. My mother has two ways of keeping track of her research. She has folders with last names, so all the family information is categorized by last night. She has a program by Ancestry called Family Tree Maker that allows her to organize an electronic family tree. You can also register it and add information from the Ancestry site right to your tree.

Family Tree Maker 2012
Great grandparents wedding
Great grandparents wedding

Have fun with your family research! You never know what kind of information you might find. I was digging through some old boxes and discovered old photos and documents, some that really blew me away. These are all ways to document your family history and pass it on to your future generations. There a lot more ways to explore your genealogy. Check out your local library for old newspapers or locally published information, you may find relatives who highlighted in stories. Courthouses and archives have and can get information about family members like marriage certificates, death certificates, and naturalization records.  

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