You may have heard people say things like: it is important to know your past so you can map out your future or that we are accumulations of not just our own life of experiences but also those of our ancestors. The thing is, most people know very little about their ancestors if anything at all. Finding out where you come from or what your family history is can be hard to do. It takes a lot of effort and time to find out all the history you need to find. The most important part of finding out about your ancestry is knowing the kind of questions you need to be asking and who those questions need to be directed to. It’s one thing to know who begat who and how you came to be, but knowing those lesser known stories could do more to color your history and give you the kind of satisfaction that comes with knowing the kind of stock you came from.
Where to begin?
When researching your ancestry the best place to begin is with yourself. Why do you want to research your genealogy? How much do you know your history? What exactly is the thing you hope to learn about your genealogy. Start by writing down the names of your family members from both sides of your family. Figure out the aunts and cousins and who fits where? This will lead to specific questions and help you figure out the best way to fill the empty blanks.
Finding your origins
It might not be possible to go back to the beginning of time, but you could get to the beginning by finding out how your surname came to be. Different cultures have different ways of giving last names. Find out what yours has been over the years. Ask questions about the meaning behind your surname, its place of origin, variations and circumstances that would have led to your ancestor changing that name. For example, a lot of Germans and Jews changed their surnames after the end of the second world war when those who fled from Nazi rule sought to hide their identity whether German or Jew. A lot of surnames have evolved over the years, so much that their genesis has become the stuff of legend. Learn the legendary stories that old people tell and if there are no oral stories about your family legends, do some digging. Some individual’s stories are interwoven with other stories about other people, places and events.
Find as many Relations as you Can
You might have the same surname as someone really famous. This could be a coincidence or there could be a legitimate connection. Such prospects usually spur people on to do a lot of research. One other reason that pique people’s interest is finding people with the same surname as theirs on the internet and sometimes, these turn out to be long lost distant relatives that could have also been trying to piece together their own origin stories. The internet makes it easy to find distant, long-lost relatives and some you may not have thought you had.
The Bottom Line
When doing research on your family tree it is important to ask your family members questions. Sit down with them and interview them about their own past, what they know for sure and what they’ve heard as rumors. The best place to find the kind of data that can help advance your research like certificates is with family. More information can be found using other genealogy research tools like census records. Check online for other resources and tools you can use to learn more about your family history.
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