Like the idea of creating a family history book as your next personal project? Before sitting down to design your book’s layout, you’ll need to understand what information you need and how to get it. That’s not difficult, just follow the steps listed below and you’ll be well on your way to gathering all the information you need to put together a beautifully designed family history book.
Ask family members for help
Start where you mean to go on, with the people at the heart of your family history book. Catching up for a long overdue chat over afternoon tea can be one of the benefits of researching your family history. Immediate family members can prove helpful sources of information about relatives. They may supply useful yet unexpected facts that help with your research. Importantly, they’re likely to be able to share interesting and insightful anecdotes. Family histories aren’t all about presenting a family tree and dates of weddings, births, and deaths. Stories about the people behind names brings that genealogy to life and showcases their character.
Relatives may be able to supply photos and letters. With a bit of luck, perhaps you’ll even get hold of grandma’s tastiest recipes for inclusion in the book. Documents supplied by family members may hold a wealth of forgotten information. That could be related to people, life events and places associated with the family. Be sure to read documents that you’re given. They may provide unexpected clues about where to visit and what to prioritise to find ancestral records.
Visit your local library
Your local or municipal library is an ideal second stop to undertake research into your family history. Libraries store a wealth of historical records and documentation. You may find local newspapers. Perhaps you’ll find rare books detailing events, people and buildings. Ask for copies to include interesting information in your book.
Were your ancestors involved in significant events? Old newspapers may provide contemporary reports. Reproducing extracts in your family history book adds depth and detail. Remember to ask librarians for their assistance. Their professional training and experience may mean they’re able to suggest useful sources of information.
Visit genealogy websites
The internet makes it relatively easy to undertake in-depth research into your family history using a laptop or phone. Recent interest in family history means there’s now a wealth of information available online. That includes birth records, marriage certificates and other useful genealogical records. Depending on what you’re looking for, you may be able to access relevant archives from the comfort of your own home. Not sure where to start researching your ancestry? Visit Family History Daily to access public databases from across Europe.
Free genealogy websites may prove useful. Check out Family Search as a way of conducting research about your ancestors. Subscribing to a website such as Ancestry, Find My Past or My Heritage can be a good investment to build upon what you already know.
Websites also make depicting family tree easy. Take a look at the likes of Family Echo, Mackiev and Creately. They can produce a family tree that is an ideal addition to your family history book.
Conduct research using Google
Use the world’s most popular search engine effectively and you may be supplied with a wealth of data. Type alternative spellings of names into Google’s search box if you can’t find what you were looking for.
Start by looking for what you already know and see what else Google suggests. Perhaps you are inundated with results? Search for names inside of quotation marks to limit the scope of searches. Alternatively, look for names of people in context to other relatives or places by adding the terms ‘and’ or ‘near’ to your search.
Search for family details in archives
Municipal archives hold official documents that can prove invaluable in family histories. These include certificates recording the civil registrations of births, marriages and deaths. Church archives hold parish records of baptisms, marriages and burials. These records may be accessible online. Alternatively, you may have to visit the archive in person to gain access. Historic census data from the national archives and military service records may also add to the information you have available.
Online newspaper archives
Searching a newspaper archive may prove useful in gathering information about the places and times in which your ancestors lived. Local newspapers may have online archives via which you can search for names and keywords.
Use a DNA test service
Is your family history proving difficult to track? DNA test services can provide insights about ancestors’ geographic and ethnic origins plus information about genetic matches indicative of shared ancestry. Simply take a swab, pop it in the post to the lab and receive the results. Involve your male and female relatives in DNA testing to increase the likelihood of positive matches. The experience of using DNA tests and reaching into the unknown may even be something you can document in your family history book.
The suggestions above are by no means exhaustive ideas about how to research your ancestry. It’s important to look at your family situation and be creative to collate as much interesting information as possible. Already collected sufficient details to start writing and designing? Head next to our post for what to include to your Family history book!