Genealogy - Trace Your Family History

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Genealogy Centers , genealogy facility
Tips to Help with Family Research
Author: John Dougan - Missouri State Archives
Wonder where and who you came from?

Chances are you’ve pondered your family’s past a time or two. Genealogy research is a great way to get to the bottom of age-old family mysteries and make meaningful connections to those faded black-and-white photographs in your family scrap book.

Thanks to efforts at the Missouri State Archives, making that connection is easier than ever before. The Archives is home to more than 6.8 million state records, many of which can be easily accessed through the award winning Missouri Digital Heritage website. Military records, naturalization documents, land patents and birth and death records, they’re all there at your finger tips, just waiting for you to discover your connection to our state’s shared history.

Below are some tips to get you going as you begin the climb up and down your family tree.

Dig right in
One of the most important elements of beginning your family history research is starting. Don’t wait – the past gets a little bit farther away everyday.

Work backward
Let what you know lead you to what you seek. In addition to being the most effective way to search, it allows beginning genealogists to familiarize themselves with the research process using information they know before they reach back into the mysterious unknown.

Put Grandma in the Hot Seat
Interviewing older family members is a great way to lay the groundwork for your genealogical journey. If possible, use  family photos, clippings and other family treasures as conversation starters and memory prompts. Most importantly, verify family stories … “Is it true that great grandpa fought in the Civil War?”

Jot it down
Record details of key life events, particularly those relating to births, marriages, deaths and residences. They are essential to finding additional information for your family tree. Develop the basic “who, what, when, where” skeleton that supports the fascinating “how and why” details of your family's history. Divorce, adoption, migration, immigration, disappearance and even imprisonment records can assist in completing the basic timeline. For those with Missouri ancestors, the Missouri State Archives is an excellent place to find some of these records. Also, federal census records are vital to filling gaps in information.

Get Organized
Focus your efforts on one branch of your family tree at a time. Working on too many lines at once leads to confusion and all too often, errors. Group your information by generation and family unit.

Road Trip
Visit your family’s old haunts to boost your family history research. Much of your family’s rich history is still held in the stories of local family members, in the records of local courthouses, cemeteries, churches, historical and genealogical societies, in newspapers and in family papers and photographs. Most communities have government offices, archives, libraries, museums and other cultural institutions that specialize in local and family history.

Sharing is Caring
After you’ve done a little digging, share your new finds with family members. Sharing digital copies of photographs and other records will not only bring your family closer to their past, but might just spark others to join you on your genealogical quest. Your family tree is only as strong as its roots to the past and its branches to the future.

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