Many people have asked themselves where they come from, where are their roots, and these questions reflect a yearning that all of us have. Genealogy is the science of tracing your family tree. It is a kind of detective work or paper chase game. The results are often unpredictable but always fascinating.
Family history research has recently gained a powerful tool in the internet. Now that it is possible to do a keyword or name search almost instantly, it has become much easier to trace a family tree. Easier at least than in days gone by, when a researcher had to spend a lot of time trudging around a dusty archive library, or waiting several weeks for a reply from one records office or another.
Even with the internet though, there are some parts of one’s family tree which will be impossible to reconstruct due to certain historical circumstances. One example that comes to mind is the fire that destroyed the Irish records office in Dublin in the nineteenth century.
So you have decided to try to trace your family tree. The question is, where do you start?
Probably the best starting point is to talk to members of your own family, particularly elders, and try to get them to remember as much as they can about the past, and about their relatives and forebears. This can be very useful in providing some jumping off points for further investigations. The facts they are able to give may well help you to refine and focus your search right from the start, thereby saving a lot of potentially wasted time and effort.
Talking to people about the past is something that should be done in a sensitive way, as it can often awaken memories which people would rather forget.
Next you should decide what aspect of your family history you are going to investigate. Are you interested in finding out about everything you can about everyone related to you? Or do you prefer a more narrow focus, such as tracing one particular branch? Or perhaps you will keep an open mind at first until you find something in your family tree that provokes your interest.
Some people even trace their spouse’s family. A friend of mine who is divorced nevertheless is tracing her husband’s ancestors on behalf of her children, since her ex-husband is descended from an old aristocratic family who were very powerful and influential in medieval England.
There are many different reasons for wanting to research family history, each one of them is interesting to the individual researcher, and all of them have been greatly facilitated by the arrival of the internet.
Author: Robert Paterson
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For more ideas, see our Genealogy blog http://phe-genealogy.blogspot.com/