When I was first asked to write a column for Mormon Momma, I knew exactly what I wanted it to be about and I hoped that a Genealogy and Family History column was available. Long story short, I began researching my own family history in 1998 at the age of 28 when my grandfather passed away. The list of things that I didn ?t know about him was longer than the things that I did know about him. Over the past 11 years that curiosity has turned into an obsession. I am excited to pass thoughts, insights, ideas, stories, frustrations and anything else related to genealogy search along to anyone that may have an interest. I am by no means a professional, just someone with a lot of experience and desire to help others.
My first few blogs I have written with the intention of sharing the love of family history. It can be overwhelming, but I have learned a few tricks, hints, tips and shortcuts along the way that might be beneficial to anyone that is interested in learning where and how to begin.
Who can benefit from family history?
Everyone. The one doing the research receives a vast knowledge of who they are and where they came from. Future generations will know their history. Living relatives that share their stories are often thrilled at the prospect that they will not be forgotten, especially as the years pass and the world changes.
What is family history?
I think that family history is a process of learning about our ancestors. As you research your family history, you will find that your relatives become more than a name on a chart. They were real individuals that lived varied lives, had experiences, hardships, achievements, happy moments and regular experiences that are waiting to be found by you.
Where do I begin with family history?
When I began my family history ten years ago, I began by downloading a software program on my computer. A free version of the genealogy software program PAF 5.2 can be easily downloaded onto your computer. It is found at Family Search and is extremely user friendly. I then began with what I knew: myself, my parents and siblings. As I worked my way back to each generation, I took careful notes to document as much as I could about each family member I found. Don ?t overwhelm yourself when you are first starting out. You can also research what you want to know. Focus on one person in your history that you want to know about.
Also, be aware that sometimes information is conflicting, hard to find and sometimes, even a brick wall. That ?s okay. My research began with Levi Bergman in 1999. Over a period of seven years, I finally found enough information to accomplish what I wanted to know about him: Everything! In 2006 I finally found the last piece to his puzzle; his will and testament that identified his posterity as well as a key to the way he lived his life. Buried treasure isn ?t always easy to uncover, sometimes we have to dig deep!
Why should we do our family history?
We all want affirmation of who we are. Do we resemble one family member more than another? Are there similar personality traits somewhere?
We all want to know where we can from. Our nationality and ethnic group is part of our physical and cultural background.
Medical conditions are often hereditary. It is good to know if there are heart problems or genetic issues that you or your posterity may one day face.
Finding family can be an adventure. A trip to a cemetery, library, courthouse, etc can be physically rewarding.
Family history research has psychological benefits too. It can also help with grieving. When we lose loved ones, we want to remember them. This is especially true of elderly people that want to remember their loved ones that have passed on. Doing family research can help keep that connection alive. Sometimes healing also comes after a loved one has passed.
In my case it was the unknown that made me want to know. That interest turned into an everyday event kind of like breathing.
It is also a commandment. Throughout the scriptures, prophets and others were counseled to keep a record of their spiritual events, family lineage and cultural records. Why should we be any different?
Keep in mind, everyone has a story about their life to tell. Record it and learn from it. Keep in mind that not everything we find, we are going to like. Every family history has a skeleton in the closet, and black sheep of the family. That ?s okay. We are not here to judge, just to do the research.
How do I record my family history?
The key word is accurately. When writing and recording information, write clearly, and don ?t abbreviate. Spell out full names and places. Write out complete dates with four digit years; such as 1970. Include County names as well as cities and states. The further back in history that you go, you will find that territory lines, including countries, changed. Places no longer exist, maps will look different. Until you get a feel for the genealogy software that you are using, record everything. Your program will offer suggestions of ways to appropriately abbreviate, etc.
Spread the word!