Tracing the Family History

Perhaps you are curious about your family tree, but you are not quite sure how to help an older loved one share family history and lineage. Try these suggestions:

Compile what you already know about the family. Collect old photos, family records, letters, diaries, newspaper clippings, 8mm films, videos, notes in family Bibles and other recollections.

Talk with your older relatives. Family reunions and special family gatherings are a natural time to talk in person with ageing family members. In-person conversations are best, but you can supplement with phone calls, emails, letters and social media.

• Focus on a conversation, not an inquisition. Avoid pressing older relatives to remember every date and name. Ask open-ended questions using phrases such as "Tell me about…." or "What do you remember about…?" or "What was it like when…?" These dialogues may also be a good time to ask about family medical conditions to help create a family medical history.

Record the oral history conversations with videos, voice recordings and photographs to help with accuracy and to have a voice and visual presentation to pass on to future generations.

Organize and chart the family history facts. Family tree software programs are available to help. Consider sharing the completed chart with your entire extended family and work to update it every few years.

Turn to the Internet. You can simplify your search by visiting free and subscriber websites tied to family history centers throughout the world. Popular sites include ancestry.com and genealogylinks.net.

Benefit from local family search centers and family historical societies. Visit familysearch.org to find a center nearest you or search their free online ancestry archives. You may also want to discover family history records by visiting cemeteries, courthouses, churches and other places that keep historical records.

Life stories of your family are a significant gift to the generations that will follow you. Enjoy the reminiscing adventure!

What do you know about your family history?

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