Where to begin when tracing your genealogy
Whether you are tracing your ancestors to keep their memories alive or you want to understand yourself better, including where you come from, I've found the best place to start is with yourself...followed by your parents (if you know who they are!).
If your grandparents are still here, make sure to ask them questions and write down their stories…once they're gone, their stories go with them.
Once you have found all your information from living relatives, the next place to hunt through is official documents, (e.g. government records or similar). Going slowly through each generation, finding historical birth and marriage certificates is the key to tracing your family history.
Official document research is now mostly available online. You can request historical births, deaths and marriage documents, coroners inquests, divorce records and immigration records from your local government departments.
Another excellent source for your family history is old newspapers. Old papers hold lots of information including births, engagements, marriages and deaths, which can help fit missing pieces of your research together.
We're also lucky enough to have a wide variety of genealogy sites available online. These ancestry sites can take the hard work out of searching through numerous documents. Online ancestry sites are a great place to search for your ancestors' records or connect with close and distant relatives to share or collect information, stories and even view or allow others to view your online family tree. You can access most of these sites for free; however, a subscription will give you much more access!
Another option in more recent times which is exciting and a personal favourite of mine is DNA testing. Some genealogy websites offer DNA testing covering your ethnicity make-up and location in which your ancestors came from. You can also connect with others who also have tested their DNA and are a match to yours. DNA testing is a great way to find genetic relatives and trace your roots. Sometimes, legal documents may have been falsely filled out or have wrong information for many different reasons.
There are lots of helpful websites for online genealogy. Below are a few of the most commonly used genealogy sites to help you find connections to your bigger story.
Records & DNA:
Ancestry/AncestryDNA - Ancestry has the largest DNA database of more than 18 million users; therefore, it increases the odds of finding more matches. Ancestry is also a powerful tool, with more than 11 billion historical records, including newspapers and military records worldwide.
MyHeritage - contains a comprehensive database of historical documents and offers DNA testing (The DNA analysis here is outsourced to FamilyTreeDNA).
Findmypast - contains millions of parish records, censuses, military and criminal records, and British and Irish newspapers. Great site if you have ancestors in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
FamilySearch - All-Free genealogy site. Contains more than 7 billion worldwide records that are searchable by name. You can also join the worlds most giant shared family tree.
Archives - Have generations of Ancestors from the United States? If so, it's an excellent option as most of the historical records collections are for the United States.
23andMe - includes an analysis of your origins can look at your accent migration paths of both your maternal and paternal lines independently. 23andMe has a database of more than 10 million profiles. 23andMe does not have any access to historical records.
FamilyTreeDNA - Has the most add ons and offers a selection of higher-end tests to the basic ethnicity test. FamilyTreeDNA provides a highly detailed analysis of both maternal and paternal lines.
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