So you have volunteered to be the family historian. Now what? Where do you start? Do you have the time or patience to do this? Well, here are a few tips to get you started.
Did you ever think you could put “Find My Ancestors” and “fun” in the same sentence? Searching for your ancestors can be fun and finding them can be even more fun! Once your search is in full swing and you’re finding links to your ancestors, then get on with the fun stuff.
Online family history sites can speed up your family research and even change the trajectory of your search overnight:
1. They can open access to more researchers, like you, who are passionate about searching family history. Open a separate email account just for your family history research. Then you can feel comfortable posting in online forums, and spam or other nuisance replies don’t bombard your regular email account. But you may also hear from a long-lost or unknown cousin of yours that can open new avenues of research.
2. They can provide direct links to obscure resources you wouldn’t have known existed. Ship manifests, land bureau titles of deed, records of public sale, foreign birth and death certificates, obituaries from small-town newspapers, Native American tribal records. These and more can be accessed through various family history sites. Without these direct links, it could take you years to find records like these.
3. Lessons in genealogy research: Taking time to go onto different family history sites and read through new postings, articles, blog and the experiences of other family historians, can teach you better, faster and more efficient ways to conduct family history research and preservation of your documents and photos.
Know that some family history websites charge a membership fee for continued access to their website and resources. Others are free sites, but they charge a fee for downloading of source material. As long as you are aware of the parameters of individual sites, the information you can gather from online family history sites can enrich your search and speed up the growth of your family tree.
Start a special family private group on Facebook and communicate. Exchange photos, news about kids, special celebrations. You may find out you share a lot in common with many of family members you meet online.
Organize a family reunion. This can be a lot of work, but involve a lot of your relatives. Don’t do it alone. Assign jobs, delegate and follow through. Give yourselves enough time for planning. Try to have the reunion in your ancestors’ hometown to get the feel of family and roots. And have fun!
Give the gift of family history–plan to do a Genealogy Christmas this year. Give gifts that are based on your ancestors scan and print out old photos and frame them; do a family cookbook with old recipes, reproduce an old family crest or design a new one, publish a written family history with photos, make homemade Christmas tree ornaments with old photos.
Start up a family website. Do a rotating blog and assign a different month to each family. Publish the family history research you’ve been working so hard on as an ebook so that family members can download it.
Travel when you can to sites and locations where your ancestors lived and worked. You’ll get a feel for what it was like while they were alive there.
A great reference location on the web is FamilySearch.org site map.
Being the Family Historian is rewarding. Having fun finding ancestors is not that hard. Sharing what you’ve found is where the real fun happens. Take some of these ideas and tweak them to suit yourself and your family.