Finding your ancestors
Your genes make you the unique person you are. Why not find out where they came from? Once you get started in genealogy, it can be addictive.
Start with yourself, then your parents, then your grandparents. Write their names in a branching pattern like a tree (printed forms for this are often available at libraries with genealogy or local history sections). Always write the full name of each person, and maiden names of females. Then under each name, write their birth and death dates (if deceased), and marriage date for the couple. Be sure to write the date in this form: 04 March 1954. Put a zero in front of a single-digit date, and write out the name of the month so there is no confusion for others. Do not write the date like this: 3/4/54. Europeans write dates in the reverse of this, with the day first, then the month.
Ask your grandparents and older relatives, if living, for any ancestors they know of further back. Also write down any interesting stories they tell you.
Once you’ve gone as far back as you can go, check the website http://www.familysearch.org. It’s a free website sponsored by the Mormon church, and they have lots of information stored in their database. However, it’s best to write all names and dates in pencil until you can confirm them with actual records, such as family Bibles, gravestones, newspaper obituaries, etc. The further back you can go with your family tree, the more interesting it becomes. And if you find a scandal or suspicious character in your family, that really makes it exciting! These stories usually go untold until generations later, when they can be found in the records.
If you have an Archives or Local History Center near you, go there and browse the shelves to see what they have. You might even find a book than mentions members of your family. And you’ll also want to get to know your ancestors as real people: where they lived, what they did for a living, when they moved, what they died of, and so on. By this time you’ve become a real serious genealogist, and will want to join a genealogical society, attend lectures, and increase your knowledge of where to find information. This is a never-ending pastime. There’s always one more generation further back to find.