Tips for researching your family history

Many of us are interested in finding out where we came from and who our ancestors are but often don’t know where to start. The tips below are only brief but should help you with getting started!

What is genealogy?

Genealogy is the study of information about your family and lineage. The most popular way to organize your family history is through a family tree.

1. Ask and Tell. First, ask surviving members of your family for information regarding your family history. Tell everyone that you’re doing your family history, you’ll be surprised with what they dig up.

2. Work backwards. It’s always best to start with the most recent information, work with what you know, and then work backwards.

2. Collect the basics. When you ask surviving family members for information, get the basics (birth dates, place of birth, maiden names, nicknames, marriage dates/place of marriage, date of death and place of death.)

3. Write and record everything. Write down everything that you come across and where you got it from. It is particularly helpful if you need to refer back to something and have the source recorded. It’s even better if you can record audio or film any interviews or conversations you have with surviving family members.

4.  Verify. Verify the information that your family members give you. The province you are in and the year you are looking for, will determine where you will need to look. I would start here, at Library and Archives Canada. If you go further back in time, you may find that your family members were not registered through Civil Registration. Check parish registers if you aren’t finding what you’re looking for.

5. Start early. Researching your family history can take months, if not years. Get as much info. as you can in the early days in case you are unable to obtain information from surviving family members at a later date.

6. Use a variety of sources. Don’t rely on one source or website for information. This will also help you verify information. Again, remember to always document where you obtained information from.

7. Save a hard copy. In this day and age and with so much technology, one of the easiest ways to save information is in the original hard copy form. You wouldn’t want to lose everything if your computer died a sudden death.

8. Don’t forget the cool stuff! Don’t forget about photographs, diaries, newspaper articles and film footage. It’s always nice to put a face to a name.

9. Create a research log and family chart. Keep track of where you have looked for information as it can quickly become overwhelming. A basic chart with the simple things such as name, birth date, spouse, date of death will be extremely helpful for quick referencing.

10. If you’re struggling or overwhelmed, ask for help! There are many historians who are familiar with the process of conducting family history. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you get in a tangle!

Below are some tools that may help you!

Library and Archives Canada

Archives of Ontario

Ancestry.ca (make sure that you aren’t spending money on copies if you can get them cheaper locally)

Family Tree Maker

Who Do You Think You Are? (TV Show)

BBC Family History

Parish and religious archives

Local archive and museums

Newspapers (often found at your local archive or library)

Your local genealogical society (Ontario)

Some useful terms

B = Born

Bapt. = Baptized

M = Married

D = Died

B = Buried

About these ads