Genealogy is a great hobby with frequent twists and turns. Sometimes when the brick walls and frustration take center stage it’s hard to remember why we became interested in family stories in the first place. These simple tips from the family historians at Saving Memories Forever will help you shake up your research time by adding some fun into your family history project.
Tip #1: Make a friend.
The easiest way to make something painless is to make it fun! One of the quickest ways to have fun researching is to dig into family history with a buddy. Your genealogy buddy can be a loved one interested in the same ancestral line or a friend who would like to learn more about his/her family as well. Siblings or cousins, children or grandchildren, friends or neighbors: they are all great candidates! Invite someone to visit the library with you and dig in. You’ll be able to laugh through frustration and support each other through brick wall research.
Tip #2: Find a mentor.
Whether we’re new to family history or a seasoned genealogist, there are always new tips and tricks that we can learn that will make our research adventure not only easier but more fun. Online communities such as Ancestry.com message boards and Facebook groups can help you locate others with similar interests. Many local libraries offer special events such as genealogy speakers, family history workshops, and even special opportunities to explore their collections. Local and state-level genealogical societies are a great place to meet others with a passion and knowledge of your local history and research repositories. Wherever you look, be it online or off, reach out to other researchers in your area. You’ll never know what doors it will open for your research!
Tip #3: Make it fit your schedule.
Whether you are a weekend warrior or a stay-at-home mom who researches during naptime, family history can fit your lifestyle. The easiest way to ensure time is on your side is to focus in on what you’d like to discover during your research session. If you’ve been involved in genealogy for a while you may have learned about research plans. These plans don’t have to be hard to create or a burden to manage. Chasing rabbit trails may be fun, but doing so can be time consuming. A research plan will help keep you focused so that you can make the most of the time you have available for your family history research.
Follow these simple steps to create an effective research plan:
1. Identify a clear goal in mind such as, “locate my great-grandfather’s death date.” This allows you to create a road map to reach your research destination quickly.
2. Write down any clues that you might have: places grandpa lived, people that he could have mentioned in an obituary, a general time frame that he could have passed, etc.
3. Take note of where you’ve already looked for this information so you know what needs to be rechecked or skipped.
4. Make a list of the places that you should look next: online databases, historical society catalogs, newspaper archives, and more.
5. Record your discoveries!
Tip #4: Focus on the story.
Another great way to make your family history fun is to realize that you are not just recording the facts of your ancestor’s existence. You are recording the story of their life. Storytelling is a large part of family history research, and it doesn’t exist only in shared family stories. Look at the facts of a record such as a death certificate or a census record, and try describing the facts in a narrative format. Stepping into the role of storyteller allows you to show all facets of your ancestor and share his or her life with others.
As an example, here is an entry from my own research:
“The 1910 US Federal Census shows us that, in April 1910, James T. Bullington, my maternal great-grandfather, was living with his wife, Ida, and infant daughter, Lola, in Amboy, Turner County, Georgia. At age 31, James and Ida had only been married four years yet had already lost one child. James tended his own farm which was located in the same town as his father and mother-in-law who were enumerated only two households before them on the same census sheet. “
Tip Five: Share your research with others.
The best way to make your family history research fun – and worthwhile – is to share it with others. First, identify a way that you can record your family history that uses your strengths. Do you love to scrapbook? Create a family history book using your family photos and research. Do you have a way with people? Use the Saving Memories Forever iPhone or Android app to record family stories to accompany what you’ve discovered.
No matter which method you use to share your family history finds, enjoy your accomplishment. You reached your goal to learn more about your family. And, by sharing the journey with others, it shows how fun family history can really be and how it can enrich our own lives.