This is a guest post by Leslie Albrecht Huber, a genealogy writer, and speaker. She has written over 100 articles published in a variety of history and family history outlets. She loves speaking to groups on genealogy topics, particularly those focused on German genealogy, tracing immigrant ancestors, social history, and writing family histories. Leslie has spoken in over 20 U.S. states, on "Good Morning America" and on NPR (National Public Radio). Her book, "The Journey Takers," was published in 2010.
We’ve all read family histories that begin something like this: “My great-grandmother, Mary Smith, was born on June 3, 1890, in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. She was the daughter of Sarah Smith and John Smith. She had two older brothers and three younger sisters.”
With nothing story-like to them, these histories are little more than lists of details strung together in paragraph format. They may be packed full of well-researched information, but many readers will struggle to get beyond the first few pages before they find their mind wandering or their eyes drifting closed.
Many people want to start building their family tree and researching their family history, but they have no clue as to where to begin. Often the first few steps are the hardest.
Here are some tips for getting started on your family tree:
South Carolina resident Joia Sokol Thompson shared this story about her sister Carol Sokol, a nurse who lives in Utah.
Carol is the Sokol family genealogist and has been working on their history — particularly their father’s line — since she was 14 in the early 1970s. One of her most prized heirlooms is a letter written to her great-grandfather in 1880. MyHeritage led her to cousins in Canada who decoded the antique letter and uncovered new family connections.
Carol’s mother accompanied her husband to visit his relatives and, for years, she recorded family history information. She often asked relatives to complete family group sheets and pedigree sheets that she organized.
Most people find they have more time for hobbies and interests during the summer than the rest of the year. Perhaps it's the long days and nice weather that give us more energy to broaden our horizons and inspire our creativity.
Whatever the reason, summer is a great time to focus on family history research and unlock new clues into your family's past.
Here are nine ways to ramp up your family history research and make the most of those long summer days:
1. Spend quality time with family: Close or far, it's important to strengthen family bonds. Encourage sharing memories, photos and family heirlooms. Use the MyHeritage Mobile App to add photos while you're on-the-go.
Raymond (Ray) Malenfant always thought of looking into his family history, but it remained at the back of his mind until after his mother died.
We know all too well stories of family history research that begin only after a death in the family - too late to ask questions. Although it makes research more difficult, it is a great motivator to delve into family history.
Ray, 66, is now a retired civil engineer. After receiving his B.S. in Civil Engineering from Northeastern University (Boston, Massachusetts, 1971), he moved to Dover, Delaware with his wife Ellen and their son, then 2. He now lives in Marydel, Delaware - retired since 2008. He has two sons, Mark, 45, and Jon, 42.
After trying to start a home inspection business in a slow real estate market, he discovered genealogy, and hasn't looked back since!
Have you only started thinking about beginning your quest to uncover your family's past, or have you already begun your ancestral search and worked on your family tree?
Researching your family’s genealogy can be extremely rewarding. However, as most seasoned genealogists know, it can be a long process. Time, patience and organization are required to keep going and break down those brick walls.
No matter how far along you are in the process, we want to hear how you're progressing. Take our poll below to let us know!
Mike, 79, lives in Burtonwood, Warrington, UK. Now retired as a lecturer in computers and with the disabled, he received an Honours B.Ed from Manchester Metropolitan University. He has four adult children from his first marriage and three step-children from his second marriage.
He was born in Holland before WWII to English parents from Hull. Following the war, he moved to Belgium until 1952, when he joined the Welsh Guards and attended Sandhurst Royal Military Academy. He lived in the US for eight years and returned to the UK in 1964.
Mike became interested in family history when he traced his mother’s side to 1500 and discovered some 900 ancestors. On his father’s side, he found only 1,770 people because his great-great-grandfather had been sent to Tasmania as a convict in 1837 and was killed there. Along the way, other people have asked him for help on their family trees.
MyHeritage members come to us in various ways. Maria Keep, 63, born in the Netherlands and now living in Australia, tried a free MyHeritage CD that came in a magazine.
Maria was born in Renkum, Netherlands. She, her husband and adult daughter and son live in Forster NSW Australia. She is a full-time caregiver for her husband who is vision impaired and suffers from total memory and short term memory loss.
Maria has been collecting family history for some four decades.
I am from a very big family and have always been interested in family history and had been collecting little bits of information on bits of paper and putting them in a book with the intention of putting it all together one day into a proper family tree record. I started collecting this information about 40 years ago.
Join My Heritage's Chief Genealogist, Daniel Horowitz, in a free online webinar, who will provide tips to discover the missing gaps in your family history.
Date: Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Time: 12-1pm EDT
Register free here: https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/362961911
Do you have questions you’d like answered? List them in the comments below, and we’ll ask them during the webinar.
Don’t miss this opportunity to take your family history research to the next level. Learn how to find those missing pieces and discover more about your ancestors.
We look forward to see you online!
While some genealogists have been at it for only a few years, MyHeritage member Gary Fenton Kemp, 76, has been researching for decades.
Gary became interested in computers in the early 1970s. He also observed his parents, then in their 70s, trying to put together their genealogy by typing and writing everything out by hand. He knew that there had to be some way to use computers and began searching for a program that would be able to organize the data.
I found PAF and started using it. In 1987, I went to my parents’ home and spent three days entering data for 752 names.
Gary has many interests in addition to family history, such as surfing, fly fishing, geocaching, glider racing and lifting weights. He’s been an educator from kindergarten through university, and conducted teacher training programs in Fiji and elsewhere. Although now retired as a teacher, coach, high school principal and school district superintendent, he is still active, serves as a local school board member and as a Boy Scout merit badge counselor.
The San Tan Valley, Arizona resident has been married to Nancy for 54 years, has four children, 13 grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and four more on the way.