Best Resources for Learning About Your Family History

When you’re getting started with a genealogical investigation of your family history, it can be difficult to know exactly where to begin. Most people start out with little more than the names of their grandparents and great-grandparents. Perhaps they have a bit of general knowledge about where in the United States their families have lived within the last century. Fortunately, there are many resources that can help you compile a comprehensive and accurate family history. Following are some of the top resources that will help you get started with your genealogical research.

Family history
Source: Pixabay

Local Government Records

The best place to start looking for links to your family history is in records kept by various local governments. Birth, death and property records maintained by local governments can help you to establish when and where your ancestors lived. This will help narrow down your search for further information about them. Likewise, records of marriage certificates can help you trace the history of your family’s marriages into families with other last names.

Census Records

Digitally archived census records are another great resource to turn to when you’re starting a genealogical search. Because it is mandated in the United States Constitution, the census has been taken regularly at 10-year intervals since 1790. As a result, US census records can be extremely useful in tracing members of your family who were living in America throughout the last few centuries. You’ll find some information from the early 20th century available in the form of census records. However, current available records only run through 1940. This is due to a requirement that 72 years must pass before the results of a census are published.

Newspaper Archives

Once you know when and where your ancestors lived, you can start to dig deeper. For this purpose, archived newspapers can be excellent resources for genealogical research. Newspaper reports often include details that no government records collect. They also maintain them in well-organized archives. If you’re lucky, you may even find a snippet of an interview with one of your forebearers that will preserve some of his or her own thoughts and words.


Directories of various kinds can help to fill in some of the missing pieces in your ancestors’ lives. The most basic type of directory is a listing of addresses that will help you pinpoint where your relatives lived. Business directories of the areas in which your family lived can also be quite useful and interesting. They may allow you to find out what some of your ancestors did for a living.

DNA Tests

Needless to say, written records will only get you so far in genealogy. Most families have a difficult time finding reliable records of their relatives farther back than the 18th or late 17th century. If you want to find out about your family’s origins, a reliable DNA test may be in order. DNA testing can tell you where in the world various parts of your own genetic makeup come from. These tests can easily map many generations of history that were not recorded. DNA tests can yield some interesting surprises, such as small inclusions from parts of the world from which you have no known relatives.

These are just some of the resources you can use to piece together your family’s history. As you go, you may also want to use resources like Facebook to get in touch with distant branches of your family that you discover along the way. Talking to newly found relatives can be extremely interesting. They may be able to give you additional information about their parts of the family that can help you fill in the blank spots in your research.

Tips provided by Anne Johnstone

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *