Family History/Genealogy what's the difference?

You will need to start your family tree by gathering together everything you already have. About yourself.  Your birth and marriage certificates, school awards, newspaper clipping - anything and everything.  Put them into chronological order in a folder.  Then fill in a personal record sheet for yourself.  Now you are ready to start researching. 

  1. Seek out papers, photos, documents and family heirlooms. Look in the attic or under the house and in the garage or shed. Go through the filing cabinet, the back and top of the wardrobes. Then talk to your relatives, especially the elderly ones, to see if they have any family documents they are willing to share. Your greatest source of information is your grandparent's/great-grandparent's death certificate.  It lists where they were living, who their parents were, who their children were, living and dead. Once you have those details for each grandparent you have a huge amount of information to work from.  You have a set of people who were your ancestors.  But pedigree is NOT family history. 
  2. Family history is the story of your family past and present.  You want to know who they were, but also how they lived, what they did, where they came from. Clues to your family history might be found on the backs of old photographs, in the family bible, or even on a postcard. If your relative idoes not want to part with or lend the original, offer to have copies made.
  3. While you're collecting family records, set aside some time to interview your relatives. Start with Mom and Dad and then move on from there. Try to collect stories, not just names and dates, and be sure to ask open-ended questions. Try these questions to get you started. Interviews may make you nervous, but this is probably the most important step in researching your family history. It may sound cliche, but don't put it off until it's too late!
  4. Write down everything you have learned from your family and begin to enter the information in a pedigree or family tree chart. If you're unfamiliar with these traditional family tree forms, you can find step by step instructions in filling out genealogical forms. These charts provide an at-a-glance overview of your family, making it easy to track your research progress.
  5. Select a single surname, individual, or family with which to begin. Focusing your family history search helps keep your research on track, and reduces the chance of missing important details due to sensory overload. As much as you might want to, you can't do it all at once.
  6. Explore the Internet for information and leads on your ancestors. Good places to start include pedigree databases, message boards, and resources specific to your ancestor's location. If you're new to using the Internet for genealogy research, start with Six Strategies for Finding Your Roots Online. Not sure where to start first? Then follow the research plan in 10 Steps for Finding Your Family Tree Online. Just don't expect to find your entire family tree in one place!
  7. Visit your local Family History Center where you can access the world's largest collection of genealogical information.
  8. Look for the records of your ancestors including wills; birth, marriage and death records; land deeds; immigration records; etc.
  9. Organize your new information -- take notes, make photocopies, etc. Make sure you save and date everything!
  10. Visit the place where your family lived -- look at cemeteries, courthouses, churches, etc. for information.
  11. Make sure you continue to document everything, including taking pictures. You never know when you might need it.
  12. When you have gone as far as you can go, step back and take a break -- then go to Step #4 and choose a new ancestor to start searching for.Remember to have fun!


  1. Ask your family members if there is a genealogy book or other records within the family. This could give you a wonderful head start!
  2. Keep copies of everything you find in your search. It may not seem important now, but it probably will be in the future.
  3. Make sure that you keep in mind possible alternate spellings of your surname as you are researching.

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