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Getting Started with Your Family History

By Libby Feil


Weddings and birthdays and burials, oh my! Writing down the dates and places of these important events is the first step in your family history journey. Start with yourself and your immediate family, listing all the places and dates you remember. When were you born? When did you get married? What about your parents? Make notes on all the family members you know, with their full names, their relationship to you, and their dates and places of birth, marriage, divorce, death, and burial. Don't forget important religious events like baptisms, bar and bat mitzvahs, and so on if you know them.

How can you keep track of all this information? You can find blank forms online that will help you get organized. Ancestral or pedigree charts let you record information about yourself and your ancestors (parents, grandparents, and so on). Family group sheets give you a place to record everything you find out about a particular family.

Once you have noted down everything you remember, the next step is to ask your relatives what THEY remember. You may want to try your hand at oral history. The Local & Family History Department has books which can give you suggestions and techniques for carrying out and recording oral history. Try Recording Your Family History: A Guide to Preserving Oral History ..., by William Fletcher; Once Upon A Memory: Your Family Tales and Treasures, by Jean Alessi and Jan Miller; or Keeping Family Stories Alive: A Creative Guide to Taping Your Family Life & Lore, by Vera Rosenbluth.


Now you have a lot of information about your family. You need to make sure that the information you have is correct, and you need to work backwards to find out information about more distant relatives. How do you go about this? You may want to use one of the Library's genealogy handbooks to help you map out a strategy. Try Ancestors: A Beginner's Guide to Family History and Genealogy, Celebrating the Family: the Guide to Understanding Your Family History, or William Hartley's The Everything Family Tree Book: Finding, Charting, and Preserving Your Family History. And check back soon for more tips and ideas on continuing your genealogy journey!

Finding Birth Dates for Foreign-Born Relatives

By Libby Feil

Click here to read this how-to article.

Publishing Your Family History Book

By Libby Feil

Click here to read this how-to article.

Finding Birth Families

By Libby Feil

Click here to read this how-to article.

Last updated by: Libby Feil, January 25, 2007

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