Family History Month: You’ve Got a Friend (or Family) in Me
What is Family History Month? It began with a Congressional resolution in 2001, and is still celebrated every October, to promote “the human family,” by organizing and learning about our own familial roots. There are numerous ways to celebrate your family – organize your family tree, preserve your photos, visit a family site, or a plethora of other ways, including celebrating your family’s heritage through food.
Why do people celebrate family through genealogy? Genealogy is the study of one’s ancestral lineage and familial group. People research their genealogy for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they are cultivating family traditions and a sense of belonging. Maybe they are in need of medical history. Or they are interested in joining a heritage or historical society that requires ancestral proof. Whatever the reasons, there are numerous sources available to assist with the task of creating your genealogical chart.
When the road looks rough ahead
How do I start? Where do I look? Start with what you know – the people, places, and events that shaped your family’s story. It’s often easiest to start with you and then work back to the person you are interested in learning more about in your family. You may want to know the most about Great Great Grandpa (GGGP) Fred, but how does GGGP Fred fit into the bigger picture. You will often find yourself frustrated and missing the key points and connections if you try to skip straight to GGGP Fred. Examine family records first and use forms to organize the information you find. Then move on to public records such as newspapers, genealogy and other websites, books, and archival records.
You’ve got troubles, and I’ve got ’em too
We stick together and can see it through
I’ve hit a bump in the search – now what? Begin with your immediate connections, or those directly from you, and then begin to extend your search through cousins and other family. Create a location search if you discover many family members in the same city/county/region. Look for other connections, such as jobs, religious, or social organizations. There are several websites that are incredible resources for searching and finding your family. You will inevitably hit a “brick wall.” Don’t fear the wall, use it to find other resources or to expand your search. It’s perfectly fine to “step around the wall” and wait to research that person another time.
And as the years go by
Our friendship will never die
Keep good records – where did you find it? Enjoy the adventure of discovery and what you may find in your research. You may uncover a family member or line you didn’t know about prior to beginning your genealogy. Maybe you’ll learn of a new place your ancestors lived. You may decide to expand into DNA genealogy. The key to strong genealogy research is good organization and record keeping. Keep accurate and complete records of what information you found and where you found it. There are many forms to help you keep track of the work you’ve done and you don’t want to lose it.
You’re gonna see it’s our destiny
You’ve got a friend in me
I’m interested – what should I do? Just jump in and get started! Don’t be afraid of what you may find or if you make a mistake. Embrace the discovery and all that genealogy research has to offer for you and your family. Celebrate Family History Month the best way you can – by celebrating YOUR family.