Family History 101

BLAZE THE TRAIL of Your Family History

I have been working on my personal family history for over thirty years, and I have helped countless people discover the joy of digging up their own family roots.  You are never too young or old to begin the journey!


Many people ask me how they can begin researching their own genealogy. is a free site that has a series of four short videos to help you start your family history research. Printable worksheets and forms are available with each video segment to help you organize the information you gather in your quest.  I highly recommend this link at Family Search as the best place to begin your personal journey:

Getting Started: Five Minute Genealogy

Gathering family history information is a wonderful activity for children and grandparents to participate in together.  Here is an interview guide that children can use to play family history “reporter” as they interview the older people in their families.  This is just a brief guide to get an interview started, so feel free to deviate and let grandma and grandpa share stories that they are most excited about.  FAMILY HISTORY INTERVIEW Guide

I wonderful article about encouraging elderly family members to share their stories may be found at this link  It’s a Wonderful Life: Family Storytelling by Jeff Anderson Thanks, Mary Beth, for sharing this link!

ORGANIZING THE CHAOS — These sites provide many good ideas and professional suggestions about preserving and organizing your family documents and photos. 

  • Icehouse Pictures professionally transfers home movies to HD.  Older formats such as 8mm film, VHS and camcorder tapes can be digitally remastered onto standard DVD, HD BluRay™ or digital files for editing.
  • iMemories provides professional services at a cost to digitize old photos, slides and films.
  • Library of Congress provides tips and guidelines regarding the digital preservation of your family document and photo collections. Go to
  • Midwest Genealogy Center of the Mid-continent Public Library has a nice collection of printable forms to organize your information at
  • National Archives page with “expert and practical advice” to help you preserve your precious family documents, photos, and digital media at
  • The Organized Genealogist is a great place to get ideas from other family historians about organizing your office space, files, etc.

GATHERING INFORMATION is an ongoing process in researching your family history.  Below are just a few of the sites online that can help you find information for free.  Check my “Heritage Links” tab for sites specifically pertaining to areas related to my personal family history.  Also, local libraries, genealogical societies, and historical societies may have access to online resources, old newspapers and photos, etc.

Cyndi’s List:  Is the premiere starting point for most genealogical searches.  Although it may seem overwhelming if you are just starting out, it is by far the most comprehensive list of genealogy links on the internet.

Family Search:  This website is a free service provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints which includes tools that assist the user in searching, recording, and sharing their family history information and photos.

It’s a Wonderful Life: Family Storytelling by Jeff Anderson posted on Posted On 27 Dec 2012 on Senior Living Blog at A Place for Mom.

Newspapers:  Searching old newspapers is a great way to find obituaries and other stories about your ancestors.  Historical societies and libraries often keep digital copies of old newspapers on site for research purposes.  Sometimes there is a fee associated with this service.  Google News Archive provides a large online collection of free newspapers at although this data base is no longer being technologically supported and is not searchable.

The Statue of Liberty — Ellis Island Foundation:  This site offers a free search of the Passenger Lists for persons passing through Ellis Island and the Port of New York for the years 1892 to 1924, along with other resources and tips pertaining to genealogical research and the immigrant experience.  Here you can use the search box and also view digital images of the ship manifests.  Visit and explore the possibilities!

USGenWeb: This is an ongoing project created by volunteers from many states in an attempt to keep genealogical resources free of charge and available to the public.

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