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Every time I sit down to research family history, I feel as though I am entering into a time machine. If you love history, you can learn so much by discovering what your ancestors did to not only help create events in time, but how random bits of time eventually ended up creating you!

I have been curious about my ancestors all my life.  I was the kid who didn’t want to play outside when extended family got together. Instead, I really wanted to sit and listen to the family stories! I was so fortunate to have two sets of grandparents who I adored and left me a legacy of stories.

To begin your journey all you need to do is to listen. Pull out your phone and record interviews with grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles. Here is a list of questions to get your relatives started. Although most relatives really don’t need any encouragement to talk about the past!

Ten Questions I Wish I Had Asked My Grandparents

1. How did you meet Grandma or Grandad?

2. What was school like for you as a kid?

3. Did you know your own grandparents? What were they like?

4. Do you know anything about where our family came from?

5. Is there a favorite story our family likes to tell?

6. Do you remember WWII, or other more recent war?

7. What changes have you seen in your lifetime and how did they impact you and your family?

8. Where did your family live when you were growing up? In the city or in the country?

9. Have you traveled far? If so, where did you go?

10. What is your favorite memory?

With these questions and answers in mind, then start to write down the information and gather clues. Pay attention to the family stories and then research them to find the truth. Check census records and documents like marriage and death certificates. Generations ago our families used to picnic at graveyards, kind of like sharing a meal with the “dearly departed.” You don’t have to bring food but go out to check tombstones and pay your respects. Someone paid a lot of money for that tiny plot of real-

estate so go visit!

Hopefully you have photos that record moments in time.

You can check clues in photos. What are they wearing? How old do they look? What is in the background? This photo was not taken on the beach. It has a painted backdrop and was most likely taken at a tourist photo shop; however, the swimsuits are like those from the 1930s.

Where to Look is a great resource; however, not everyone can afford the subscription price. Some libraries offer an institutional version at the library for free. The Jonesborough Genealogical Society also has a free help night every 2nd Thursday of the month at Washington County-Jonesborough Library. is a free site run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To begin searching for information just create a username and password.

After searching in all the usual ways try using Google. Yes, Google! It’s not just for maps and recipes and looking for people you used to date. Try using Google as a family history search tool.

Go to Google

Type in a name in quotes:

Like “Willie Jones”

Then add a semi-colin (;) and the name of a place, occupation, or other identifying information to filter out your search. Then you can navigate the results.

Keep in mind, Research takes time. You will not be able to unlock all the secrets in your family tree in an hour like the researchers on TV ancestry shows. Genealogy is like a huge jigsaw puzzle; however, you will never find all the pieces. Remember to question everything. You may find something after years of research that you thought was true that changes your entire tree, but the rewards are so great. You will not only find your dead relatives, but you may find wonderful fully alive cousins as well to form new family stories with on the genealogical journey.


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