The Great Philosopher Confucius once said, “Study the past if you would define the future.”
When we are young, we’re mostly concerned with just living our own lives. Yet, as we get older, a stirring desire awakens within our hearts to discover our family history and keep the legacy alive for generations to come.
Why should we read about other people’s family history in books, when our own lineage could be just as rich and intriguing? Creating a genealogy family tree has never been easier, with all the free tools we have at our disposal.
Latter Day Saints Genealogy
In just 7 years’ time, FamilySearch.org celebrates the addition of its billionth searchable record. The LDS genealogy project began with a computer file called the “International Genealogical Index” (IGI) in 1973. You could think of it as “Facebook for the dead.”
This monolithic database amassed public records like births, christenings, marriages, and deaths. These details were added from church records and member contributors. The LDS family tree program is available for free to anyone at www.FamilySearch.org.
Paul Nauta, PR specialist at FamilySearch explains how easy it really is. “Someone who is not in good health and bed-ridden, to a business executive on a flight to New York City, can take a half-hour and do some indexing work,” he says.
Once upon a time, tracing my family history meant taking a trip down to my local library to dig through index cards, census records and newspapers on microfiche. It was an arduous task, to say the least! Much more fun were the afternoons spent listening to my family elders talk and trying to pick up as much information as I could. I’d make scrap books using family letters and photos for hours on end. I’d draw up my family tree using whatever art supplies I could get my hands on. Nowadays, there are a number of free family history websites to make your family genealogy project a breeze.
My favorite family history research tool is FamilySearch.org. Many people mistakenly believe this is only for Latter Day Saints genealogy, but that is simply not true. Anyone and everyone can find information on their family tree here. The existing research may not be as vast as what you’ll find on Ancestry.com, but then again… it’s FREE! You don’t need to sign up to access the records, but if you do, you’ll be able to enjoy added features. For instance, you can:
- Save & Share Records
- Add Your Background Information
- Refine Results By Relationship
With 1 billion records, recently expanded archives and an updated interface, the benefits of Family Search are vast.
Continue reading about other popular family history websites…
Want to look up your family genealogy, but not sure where to start? Find out with this helpful guide to genealogy online.
Family Genealogy Tools You’ll Need:
- Audio/Video Recorder
- Internet Access
- A Receptacle To Hold Onto Valuable Records
If you don’t have all these tools on hand, you can always link up with a group at your local LDS family history center, church, historical society, or library.
Where Do I Start With Family Genealogy?
“Start with the oldest relatives first, before it’s too late,” advises Dorothy Medley, a historian at the Family History Center for the Church of Latter Day Saints in Marble Falls, She’s not only the society’s historian, she is director of the Family History Center for the Church of Latter Day Saints in Marble Falls, Texas.
Begin with the patriarch and matriarch of your family — collecting any important family records or photos they may have and conducting your own interview. Items like diaries, certificates, newspaper clippings, family bibles, letters, and postcards make excellent mementos to collect. When you meet with your relative, be sure to get all the full names, maiden names and important dates down that you can. Be sure to snag a family genealogy group record form here. Try to uncover the stories behind some of the photographs you come across and record what you can in a journal. You may find valuable clues and leads about your family genealogy that way.
Start Your Genealogy Family Tree Next.
Start creating a genealogy family tree with the information you have — working backward in time from your own nuclear family. Keep in mind that a tree may have already been started for your family by one of your ancestors — or even a complete stranger!
Visit FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com to have a look at information that is currently available to you. Whether your family tree has been started or not, it’s important to cross-reference and update all of your findings in the free FamilySearch database to help other members of your family or future generations conducting searches of your family genealogy. You may also keep a virtual genealogy family tree on your home computer, using free genealogy software if you enjoy technology and online research.
Keep in mind, you can also work with hard copies to create family heirlooms that can be physically passed down through the years. Many people like to do it both ways, even though it takes a little more effort. Once your rough drafts are finished, you may want to input your online genealogy names into a beautiful chart like this one:
Now that you have a place to begin, find a receptacle that will house all your family genealogy supplies and be sure to schedule time each week to work on your hobby. You’ll find there are times where you feel really enthusiastic about what you’re going and times where your focus wanes. But all in all, family genealogy is an extremely rewarding pursuit — and a little bit magical too!