Starting Your Family History

Family history can take you on the journey of a lifetime. Not long ago this would have meant literally traveling to libraries and other locations around the world to scroll through reels of microfilm in dusty basements.

Today it’s amazing what you can learn about your ancestors — and yourself — with just a little digging online. Maybe that’s why family history is catching on so quickly. Research shows that nearly 87 percent of Americans are interested in discovering more about their stories. (Source: Harris Interactive, July 2009)

So how do you start your family history journey? It’s easy . . . Follow these easy steps to begin. 1. Start with what you know. Simply enter a few details about yourself, your parents and grandparents in to an online family tree. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the facts. This is just the beginning.

2. Search historical records. A simple online search could help you find family members in historical censuses, military and immigration records, newspaper articles and more. Use these records to continue tracing your story back through time. And stay organized by adding what you discover to your online family tree.

3. Ask your family for more details. Family history can be a wonderful excuse to pick up the phone or pay a visit to your loved ones. Ask your relatives for stories, photos and other knowledge about your heritage. Search family photo albums and heirlooms for missing details.

4. Add context to your story. Attach photos, stories and other important documents to your online family tree. Create timelines of your ancestors’ lives. Record interviews with relatives by phone and save them to your tree using tools like the Storytelling Service.

5. Share your discoveries. Share your rich heritage with your family and document your family history journey by creating a book, calendar, poster or another meaningful gift. Discover your story in the world’s largest online family history resource at

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