Diving into Your Family History: First Steps

Hello dear public viewers,

This week has been a fairly productive week. My uncle has agreed to help me with my project in a few ways, such as providing a revised record of my great-grandparents and their descendants from 1988, a family album that traces my family’s history from my great-grandparents compiled in 1993, and an obituary that also includes a significant amount of my family history.

I’ve definitely been learning a lot about my extended family and their cultural roots. It turns out I have more Russian cultural background than I initially believed….

old photo album photographs photos
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My goal is to create essentially a bread-crumb path for all of you who may interested in also looking into your family history/histories. From what I’ve learned this week, here are a few places I would start:

  1. Determine what you want to do with the information you learn about your family’s history. This will inform what sort and how much research you do.
  2. Even if you’re not Canadian, I’d recommend starting at the “Genealogy and Family History” web page created by Library and Archives Canada. While I have not personally referred to their recommendations much for this project (I have yet to hit a wall for ideas for how I can learn more about my family), the web page certainly gives many good suggestions for how to even go about researching your family history: http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/genealogy/how-to-begin/Pages/introduction.aspx
  3. Dig into your memory and ask yourself: What do I know about my ancestors? Knowing their names, where they were born, how many children they had, etc is certainly a good way to start, although this is also an opportunity for you to come up with and attempt to answer any burning questions you might have of your own that will contribute to accomplishing your final goal of the project.
  4. Search your closets, cupboards, etc for any sort of information about your family/ancestors that you may have access to on your own without the assistance of others.
  5. Determine what sort of information you might still need.
  6. Start talking to your immediate- and extended family members. Perhaps, like in my case, they will have access to a lot of documents, photos, memorabilia, stories, etc.
  7. Scour the internet for answers to your questions. While this is more helpful if you have specific questions about your ancestors you are seeking answers to (and names to go along with the questions), this step can also be done prior to step 6 if you want. Google Search your ancestors’ names if you have to! You never know what you might discover. (For example, it was through the Internet that I learned that both of my great-grandparents on the side of the family I’m choosing to study are buried in a cemetery in my hometown, although they had lived a significant portion of their lives in other provinces in Canada and in Russia).
  8. Document your learning! Even if it is most simply in a Google Docs page, or a notepad. You (and your family) will be glad you did!

Bonus step that serves as both a step and a reward for embarking on the family genealogy journey: learning new vocabulary or seeing vocabulary in a new light! For me, this came when I realized that ‘immigration’ and ’emigration’ do not mean the same thing! For those who are curious, ‘to immigrate’ means to come into a country to live from a different country, and ‘to emigrate’ means to leave one country to live in a different country (https://www.vocabulary.com/articles/chooseyourwords/emigrate-immigrate-migrate/). I had to definitely think this one through and re-read the definitions a couple times to truly get it, but from what I’ve gathered is that it is all about perspective: whether you want to speak from the place that your ancestors came to (immigrated), or from the place they left (emigrated from).

This is what I’ve discovered from as far as I’ve gotten into this family genealogy project journey. It is all subject to change if I discover a better way to go about this process later on.

Hope this is helpful!

~Bethany

 

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