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DIY Genealogy: Your own family is a top resource

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Genealogy seems to be a growing hobby, perhaps more than ever before. A curious searcher need not possess an anthropology, history, or library science degree to pursue family history information. Genealogy, in its many forms, is open to anyone.

What is genealogy?

Genealogy is the study of one’s own family history. Generally, this includes tracing the ancestral lineage, commonly known as the family tree. Increasingly, genealogy buffs also gather family lore, memorabilia, stories, and traditions.

How might a beginning genealogist go about finding helpful family information?

Certainly, websites like and offer significant assistance, either free or for fees. Online searches and library resources can be extremely helpful as well.

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One’s own family is a super place to start a genealogy project.

Actual family memories, particularly as passed along from the more senior members of the clan, can paint intriguing pictures of one’s forebears. Older relatives may be able to describe the personalities and pursuits of those who have gone before.

Just asking these folks what they remember about parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other long-lost kinsmen can reveal plenty.

A family history becomes extra interesting with the addition of photographs. Can any relatives provide any old images, slides, home movies, or other pictorial resources?

What about diaries, journals, logs, or scrapbooks? Did any forebears paint portraits, or even sit for them?

Open-ended questions can encourage older family members to share stories and memories of the clan. Here are a few examples:

  • What were these people like?
  • What did they do for a living?
  • How did they spend their vacations and free time?
  • Where did they live?
  • What were their homes like?
  • Did they have hobbies or pets?
  • What health issues did they face?
  • Where did they go to school, and what degrees did they earn?
  • Did any of these folks serve in the military, publish a book, or invent anything interesting?

Records are remarkable.

Once the family history enthusiast has gathered the genealogical data, family heirlooms and collectibles, and other materials, it’s important to write down, record, and organize the content for future generations to peruse and enjoy. Some folks create memory boxes, time capsules, or scrapbooks. Others may place their entire collections on CDs, DVDs, or websites.

Whatever format the genealogist chooses, it’s essential to capture the project for posterity.