How to Trace Your Family Genealogy

Learn how genealogy sources such as The National Genealogy Society, The Genealogical Helper a periodical, The National Archives and Record Service, The Library of Congress, The Mormon Church, the Newberry Library, US Immigration and Naturalization Office and your local library can help you trace your family tree.

| July/August 1977

  • Genealogy
     Many folks feel that it's a good idea — at least in the beginning — to trace only one side of your family at a time in order to avoid the confusion that can result from the juggling of too many disconnected bits of information. 

  • Genealogy

Thanks to the success of Alex Haley's Roots (surely you've heard of Roots! ), an intense new wave of interest in genealogy — a recorded history of the descent of a person or family from an ancestor or ancestors — has swept the world.

And that's good. As one of MOTHER's editors is fond of saying, "You don't know where you're goin' if you don't know where you've been." We can all benefit from learning who our ancestors were, what they did, and where they did it. And pulling such information together is not as difficult as you might have thought:

[1] Ask your oldest relatives for all the family names and events they can recall. Take careful notes of this oral history or, better yet, capture it with a tape recorder. Tip: You may be able to jog fading memories with old photographs or visits to long-ago places of residence.

[2] Copy names and dates off family tombstones whenever possible. You may also find valuable information in local undertakers' records.

[3] Check your family's old documents and Bibles for vital statistics, names, and dates. Search out dusty trunks in attics and basements and go through them to find any memorabilia that may have been stored there.

[4] Send copies of all the information you're able to assemble to each separate branch — brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. — of your family. Ask all your relatives to fill in any facts you've missed and send them back to you.


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