If you are curious about your family history, you are not alone. Genealogy, according to the Marist Poll Service, is one of the most popular hobbies in the United States, second only to gardening.

Like gardening, genealogy is all about roots. And new, user-friendly online genealogy tools make it easier than ever to find your roots.

Once you begin tracking your ancestry, genealogists will tell you, you’ll quickly become hooked. But just how do you get started on this generational trip?

Here are 5 tips to get you on your way.

  1. Begin at home. Reach out to your parents and grandparents. Whether or not they are genealogy buffs, they are likely to have family photos, documents, keepsakes, and plenty of stories to share. Look for vital records, such as birth certificates, passports, or licenses–anything containing important dates and places. Photo albums, yearbooks or scrapbooks can also help you piece together your family story.
  2. Write down what you know. Start with yourself and work generation by generation. You’ll need to keep track of names, maiden names, dates and places of birth, marriage and death. To organize your information, try one of the free pedigree charts on Cyndi’s List.
  3. Build an online family tree. Online family trees are a great way to keep your family history organized. Another bonus? They can be easily shared with other family members. Many online genealogy services offer free family tree tools.
  4. Do your research. Once you can’t climb any more branches of your family tree, it’s time to do some genealogy research. But, where to begin? There is no shortage of family history data online. Here are a few free or low-cost resources:
  1. Collaborate. You may think you’re the only genealogist in your family, but who knows? You may have a distant relative who is also curious about your family history. Online genealogy tools, like One Great Family, have made it easier than ever to collaborate with others as you piece together your family tree. Many of these services allow users to search for existing ancestry data, create printable family trees and invite others to contribute information.

Whatever motivates you–whether it’s learning about your family’s medical history, discovering the origins of endearing (and not so endearing) quirks, or better understanding who you are–finding your roots will be an incredibly rewarding journey. Happy trails!


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