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Getting Started on your Family History


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Since this is the first Family History column, I thought it would make since to talk about how one goes about researching and discovering their family history. Genealogy is a hobby which many people take up in their retirement years. It is unfortunate that so many people wait so long to learn about their families’ rich heritage.

The most important resource that you have in learning about your family is your living relatives. Talk to your parents, your aunts and uncles, your grandparents and great- aunts and uncles. Ask them questions. What kind of stories did they hear about their grandparents? Where did they live? What did they do for a living? The information that you get through these family stories is much more full of life than plain and simple facts such as dates of birth and death.

At the same time, don’t overlook the plain facts. At first they may seem to have little use, but if you keep track of these dates and places it makes further research much easier.

Up until the last generation or so, families repeated names at a rate that can lead to much confusion. This is one reason that keeping track of specific dates and places significant to your family is important to your family history. For instance, when researching 3 people named William Walton, knowing that one left a will in 1797 in Wake County, while the second lived until 1844 and the third wasn’t born until 1861, helps prevent such confusion as believing that one William lived to be well over 100 years old.

At some point, you will have exhausted the memories of your living relatives and your search most move on to other sources. Vital sources of information at this stage are Federal census records (which can be found at the local library), birth, death and marriage records (which can be found at the courthouse of the county where the event took place), also land records can yield some important clues as to connections between families.

Next time: The Federal Census and it’s Value to the Family Historian