Discovering Your Family History: Six Tools to Start Your Search

Discovering Your Family History: Six Tools to Start Your Search

Each family history discovery is exciting. Not everyone will uncover acclaimed American Revolutionary heroes or will trace their lineage to a royal family, but every document revealed paints a picture of a time gone by. Some findings hint at greater family mysteries that tickle the imagination.

Imagine discovering a family link to two brothers who fought on opposing sides of the American Civil War. Instantly, minds go to work picturing heated family discussions, and questions arise about the reasoning behind the brothers’ different enlistment choices, if their units ever met on the battlefield, or if the brothers reconciled after the war. If only we could turn back time and be a fly on the wall!

In our first blog, we discussed how the practice of genealogy can help you in your search for family history and memories. Here, in Part Two, we give you the resources to continue your journey.

camera capturing family history

 Starting Your Genealogy Search

Starting genealogy research can seem daunting. With piles of documents to sift, overgrown cemeteries to wade, and a limited number of details about loved ones to go on, the process can appear overwhelming.

However, today, researching your family history is easier than ever. Here at OXO, we find these tools personally helpful when embarking on a journey into the past:

Resource 1: The Swedish Organizer Genealogy Guide

Cracking open family scrapbooks is a great way to start family history research. Don’t be scared away by the volume of photos, videos, slides, and other family treasures. If staring down a closet full of dusty albums and stuffed film boxes has you overwhelmed, turn to the Swedish Organizer! Caroline is an expert organizer dedicated to helping families organize their memory collections. Take her free email course on the basics of organizing to build a foundation for sorting family history. Remember to check out her blog more for advice on digitally backing up memories, hunting for stories, and sorting tips.

Resource 2: USA.gov

Government records offer a wealth of information about our ancestors. At some point in your genealogy quest, you’ll be digging through the government’s public archives. This website provides a list of valuable resources such as links to U.S. Census data, a guide to exploring Native American heritage, the Ellis Island Foundation, and Nationwide Gravesite Locator.

Resource 3: RICHES of Central Florida – Mosaic Program at UCF

This incredible online archive is an interactive interface capturing Central Florida’s history. The University of Central program brings together interdisciplinary projects in an effort to capture local historical photos, oral histories, videos and more. The system tags them according to places, dates and names. Anyone can submit items–”artifacts,” as they are called–for consideration to be added to the database. Special projects of note in the RICHES initiative: Veterans History, where oral history interviews of a diverse group of Central Florida veterans is archived, the GLBT History Museum of Central Florida focusing on preserving the cultural history of the local GLBT community, and the Home Movie Archive, a collection holding valuable moment in history collected by everyday citizens.

Resource 4: Central Florida Genealogy

Attending a meeting of the Central Florida Genealogy Society is an excellent way to begin a family history journey. Meetings are open to the public and held at various locations in the area. The group offers training and workshops on everything from the basics of genealogy to training on using digital family tree tools like Family Tree Maker. The group even has specialized interest groups. Visit their website to read Genealogy 101 and find advice on tapping local resources.

Resource 5: Ancestry.com

If you are interested in family history, you’ve likely heard of Ancestry.com. The online archive scans census records, birth and death records, and digitized document collections for details on your family history. The tool creates a family tree as more information is discovered through the research process. Its 17 billion historical records date back several centuries. Using Ancestry.com can save time driving to public libraries and institutional records to dig through documents for details, but it is a paid membership website. The family history provider also offers personal DNA testing.

Resource 6: Freedmen’s Bureau

Digging for information to African American ancestors can be more challenging, but not impossible. The Freedmen’s Bureau project is endeavoring to make the process easier by transcribing, organizing, and annotating over 50,000 documents from the National Archives of the United States to capture the history of African Americans as they moved from slavery into freedom. This site offers some information sorted by state, including Florida, and a link to the National Archives’ page on African American family history research.

These tools can make starting your journey into the past easier. Be prepared for new, exciting insights into your personal history. Family history research is much more than a hobby, or answering who we are and where we come from. It is an emotional ride revealing deep relationships with our roots. The details uncovered will be a priceless a gift to your entire family.

Missed Part One on Uncovering Your Family History through Genealogy? Click here for more!

Posted in: Family History and Genealogy, Photo Projects

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