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How to Begin Researching Your Family History

How to Begin Researching Your Family History

Are you interested in researching your family history but haven’t had the chance to get started? This is a great time to begin because Ancestry.com is allowing library users to access Ancestry Library Edition from home for free through April 30.

Let’s get started! Remember, your family tree begins with you. Fill out an ancestral chart, starting with yourself and working backward. Focus on one generation at a time and fill in the chart with as much information as you can remember about each ancestor.

Next, look around your house for family documents that can fill in gaps. Old photographs and newspaper articles, birth certificates, family Bibles, marriage or death certificates, and diplomas can be excellent sources of information. Use family group sheets to record details about spouses, children, occupations, religion and burial places.

Once you’ve recorded what you know, try talking to family to find out more. Call your oldest living relatives and ask them what they remember. Consider recording the interviews. You can refer to them later and it can be a wonderful way to preserve their stories for future generations. Remember to be tactful and sensitive to issues your relatives might not want to discuss.

Now it’s time to do some research. Ancestry Library Edition is a comprehensive site that offers access to more than 7,000 different genealogy databases and 200 billion images with a single search. Does your family tree only go back as far as your grandparents? If they were alive and in the United States in 1940, you should be able to find them in the Census records which will give you information about every other member of their household. In addition to Census records going all the way back to 1790, you can search birth records, marriage records and death records. Ancestry offers access to voter lists, military records, city directories and obituaries. You can view message boards and the public family trees of Ancestry members. Ancestry also offers a Learning Center, full of tips and tricks to help you get started and make the most of your research.

Genealogy research can be habit forming and Orange County Library System offers many resources to help. West Oaks Branch and Genealogy Center is home to the Genealogy Collection, an extensive reference library of books from every state and around the world. The genealogy experts at West Oaks Branch offer classes on a wide variety of topics, from vital records to DNA. Take a look at the OCLS Genealogy Resource Guide for more useful links for beginners, plus information on DNA testing, tips for researching different ethnicities, ways to collaborate online and much more.

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Orange County Library System will be closed Sunday, May 26 and Monday, May 27, in observance of Memorial Day. The library system will resume normal business hours on Tuesday, May 28. View a complete list of holiday closures >