Extended Years
How to Start Your Genealogy Research

With all of the tools available today, there's a tendency to just want to jump headfirst into genealogy research for most people. The internet has made it so that someone can find out all kinds of interesting things without even leaving their office chair, but today I want to take a step back even further. In general, you'll make the most of even online searches by already having a fairly solid knowledge of what you're looking for. In this article, we're going to talk about how you can develop that base before you ever set foot outside or touch a keyboard.

Plant a Tree

One of the most common activities when developing your genealogy is to visually represent it as a family tree. While you wouldn't need to do any research if you already knew what the whole tree looked like, you can certainly start with what you do know: You might know where some of your immediate family fit into place. Plot your siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. as well as you can until you can't go back any further. If you don't have knowledge of any of these, that's fine too, just move onto the next step.

What Others Know

Next you're going to want to call up any family and family friends you do know of and ask them what they know. They might be able to tell you about a great aunt you never knew about, or that a certain family member had a name change (which might help you avoid roadblocks later on in your research). Speaking of name changes, if you were adopted it's obviously going to be important that you know your real last name if it was changed by your adoptive parents. When having these conversations with your family members, be sure to pick up any little details you can. Hearing about where your grandparents grew up, or that your great aunt and uncle owned a ranch in another county could come in handy later on. Jot down names and notes and start keeping a log of any such "clues" into your family past.

Myth & Lore

This is the section where you transition from "what others know" to "what others might know." While no one in your family probably claimed you were the last in a long line of dragon riders, you probably did hear your grandpa tell some (potentially tall) tales when you were younger. You should try and revisit and record as many of these stories as you can; while not all of them will hold up to scientific scrutiny, you may, again, be able to pluck details out that have their roots in very real facts about your current and past relatives. Don't limit yourself to looking for any particular kind of stories, by the way, get creative and think about things like relatives who may have been on tours of military service, relatives who have been re-married and whose first spouses you might not know much about, etc.

From here, you'll likely have amassed a little encyclopedia of names and buzzwords that you can then take off to other more traditional research facilities and use to jump-start your searching.


Looking up your genealogy can be an incredibly rewarding endeavor. Finding out your roots and your family history provides new context and meaning for your current situation.

Unfortunately, researching your genealogy can also be an extremely time consuming and frustrating task as well. Your search can be a little easier if you learn from some valuable lessons that other people have learned while looking up their family histories.

Here are a few guides to help you on your journey:

Genealogy mistakes to avoid

How to start your genealogy search

Ways to narrow your search

Texas genealogy tips

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