Searching for our ancestors has grown in popularity ever since "Roots" aired on television in 1977. Interest continues with programs like "Who Do You Think You Are", where celebrities discover their family roots.
Family history is not just for TV shows or the rich and famous. Here are some simple ways to get started without spending much money.
1. Often, the most accurate way to get information about ancestors is to interview relatives, especially the older ones who can become a bridge between you and the generations that have passed. Many times, they truly enjoy having the opportunity to talk about their memories and love to know that the information will be preserved and passed down. Take notes—or even better—videotape the conversation. Not only will you have a way of getting the information down, but you'll capture your older relative's image and their own voice.
2. Ask about family records such as birth certificates or family Bibles. In the hierarchy of information sources, personal records such as these are preferred because they are often the most accurate.
3. Online sources of information, such as ancestry.com and new.familysearch.org, make the hunt for information much easier. Gone are the days of hunching over a microfilm reader in a darkened room. Many vital records have become digitalized in the last few years, and more records are added daily. The computer's ability to search records with lightning speed makes this so much easier. Birth certificates and census records are excellent records to search since they contain information about the family of the person in question, and not just the individual themselves. For example, a birth certificate most often contains the names of the individual's parents, getting you another generation back.
4. Forms for entering your new information are available free online at new.familysearch.org and other places. These can be printed off and filled in by hand or you can enter the information on the computer and print. Even more convenient is the Family Tree program on new.familysearch.org, which is full-featured and free to all. Your information is stored safely online and becomes easily searchable, a key feature for you once your data grows. Your information is easily shareable with other family members who would like to help with the search.
5. Don't forget about the current generation! Get the whole family involved in preserving your current history. Take plenty of pictures and videos of family events and be sure to capture key dates such as births, baptisms, marriages, graduations, etc. Future generations will thank you!
Learning about your ancestors will add to the richness of your family experience. Discovering their accomplishments may astound you, and you may find strength passed on to you didn't know you possessed. Family history can be viewed as an entertaining treasure hunt, but if you look deeper, you'll understand better who you truly are.