Researching Your Personal Genealogy

knowledge-e835b40d28_150     Researching your personal genealogy can be extremely rewarding. To me, how people who are like me got through tough times is always inspiring and fascinating. Even if you find some folks with “undesirable” actions, such as an ancestor who was jailed, or was involved in violence, taking a look at the environment to understand why they did what they did is rewarding and may lead you to decide those actions weren’t so “undesirable” after all. 


freedmens-bureau-e834b20b29_150     Oral History:  Start where you can. Look around-are there older relatives you can talk to? Listen to the stories they have to tell, no matter how many times you’ve heard the tales before.  Many older relatives will readily tell anyone who will listen how “things were in the old days” or wisdom one of their parents imparted to them.


mother-e03db10f2d_150     Graveyards: Don’t discount graveyards! They are a wealth of information. Names and dates are displayed on stones. The proximity of burial location can also hint whether those buried there were relatives, parents or children. The stones have much to tell us, as well as location of graves, such as in family plots. The more elaborate the stone, the wealthier the person was, or interestingly enough, the more beloved the person was in a family-perhaps the person died from a sudden  illness. Perhaps a stone is a military headstone? Sometimes a person’s military service is listed on the stone.

rocking-horse-e833b0082b_150         Names of children: During the time on civil unrest or war in America’s history, families ten to name their children after events in their families history, in case they were were separated. They could find their way back to each other. So concentrating on the last name only can be a dead end. Concentrating on the given names of children can be an open window. It was also a tradition to name children were also named after other family members, both in honor and in gratitude.  I have one relative who named their children after the flowering bushes in the family graveyard. That way, they reasoned, if the children were separated, they would always know their last name was the same as the graveyard where those flowering bushes could be found.  But luckily, the family stayed together.


old-picture-e837b10f2e_150         Family heirlooms: Check out old family pictures, scrapbooks, saved greeting cards and school pictures of friends of the children. They all tell stories. Through pictures you can find out a wealth of information, from military history to geographical location, to events in family history. Don’t discount the Family Bible-ours contained a written listing of grandparents’ family tree and the children’s names and  birth dates. I also found my father’s elementary school diploma stashed away in the pages.

   These are a few ways to get started. What are you waiting for? An adventure awaits you!

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