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How to Start a Family History Paper

by Michelle Bernstein

Research is key when embarking on the task of writing a family history report. Knowledge of the family tree is necessary, but that is just the first step. A name is a place to start, but you must also have a sense of who that person was. Genealogy, the study of family pedigrees, will help you get a better understanding of where you come from. This understanding willl create a voice that will flow into your family history paper.

Knowing who to call can make a difference.

Seek the oldest living family members and ask them questions. Ask to see family photos and if possible, make copies. When talking to the eldest members, write down names of offspring and distant relatives; this will help you locate others in your family tree. Grandparents and great-grandparents often have family information that parents cannot provide, such as names of those who died or moved away. Start with the oldest family members and work down the tree.

The Internet can be one of your most important resources

Visit free genealogy websites to find additional family members. These websites provide a great way to verify information you may need for a time-line. Many websites are free or offer free trial memberships.

Explore social networking. Facebook.com has more than 500 million active users; you're likely related to some. Go through your email list and write an email about your report to your family. Ask members to distribute the email to additional relatives not in your address book. The email could include questions you need answered in your report, gaps in your time-line, or information on other relatives.

Going through old papers and photos will help uncover your roots

Look through the attic, filing cabinets, old boxes and photo albums. Documents like divorce decrees, wills, old newspapers, birth certificates, and journals will help you put together the report or compile pedigree charts and family group sheets.

Write several drafts so all of your hard work is perfect.

Compile all of your information and organize it. Figure out the exact order of your family tree. Decide the most crucial information for your report and be sure to include every piece of information required.

Items you will need
  • Pen
  • Paper
  • Computer
  • Internet access
  • Archive of family photos
  • Telephone
  • Genealogy websites
  • Social networking sites
  • Email

Warning

  • If you have trouble finding information past a few generations, it's all right; information will eventually come.

About the Author

Michelle Bernstein has been professionally writing since 2004 and also does work in search-engine optimization. She has received awards as a Top Health Blogger for her articles about celiac disease. Bernstein is pursuing degrees in English literature and secondary education from Arizona State University.

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