Start Your Family History Journey

Researching your family history can have some very exciting moments.  Find your first census record and feel the thrill of seeing a snapshot of your family.  I became addicted to genealogy research after finding my grandfather’s passenger manifest and had difficulty waiting to find my next piece of my family’s history. Start your search, and you can also feel this thrill once you find that first document. Filling in more generations of your family tree and finding more family facts will start to haunt your waking thoughts. Get started and be prepared to make researching your family history a lifelong journey. Just like a great novel, it will be hard to put down.

Try to have a goal in your research. I intended to learn more about my family’s heritage and to preserve what I find for my children and grandchildren. Your goals can be similar to mine or yours can be as simple as doing an in-depth study of one of your famous ancestors. Start your journey at home. Collect documents, pictures, and letters that you and your immediate family have stored away in old shoe boxes in the closet or stuffed in desk drawers. Remember also that it is critical to interview your older relatives to save their memories and oral history.

Be organized in your research because this will save you time but will also point the way for more research. I use summaries to organize my facts and as a reference tool while doing my research. My summaries can make my research more efficient and helps me find more documents and facts. The summaries also help me focus my search efforts. Summaries are also a great way to share what I find with my family. Sharing gives me more opportunities for other family members to contribute more oral history, pictures, and old papers. Be prepared to uncover more areas to research after sharing your work. Remember to identify and label the family pictures. Asking relatives to determine who is in the pictures will help extend your family tree and also turn on the memories of the relatives who are trying to help.

Records you find may be confusing, misleading and wrong.  You will need to continually analyze and interpret your information and note where you got your information. As a beginner to genealogy, start now to note where you get every piece of information. Record your information as you find your facts. You may hear arguments that keeping up with sources are time-consuming and too much trouble. It isn’t fun, but without your source information, you can’t evaluate, analyze, and draw conclusions. And you can’t pass along your information because at least one family member will ask, “But how do you know?”

Companies and organizations are listing more and more genealogy records in online databases, and these are great sources to begin your research. However, there are many more genealogy records stored in libraries and historical archives that also may include your ancestors. Be sure to use all the sources in your research, both online and in person. You will be rewarded for your efforts.

Use books, genealogy programs, genealogy conferences, genealogy societies, online educational offerings, and social media to sharpen your genealogy skills. Again, once you start your journey, it will probably be a lifelong passion.

My last thought that may help you develop the same passion for genealogy as I have is

“Remember to have fun.”

Save the memories of your older relatives

  1. Talking to older relatives is a critical early step in genealogical research. Do this as soon as possible. Don’t wait until tomorrow because your relative may suddenly not be there.
  2. Prepare a ring binder with your summaries, charts, and photos to show your progress to your relative
  3. Discussions should be an equal exchange of information and should not be an interrogation.
  4. Establish rapport with family members before interviewing them
  5. Avoid questions that seek a “Yes” or “No” answer
  6. Let your relative talk, do not interrupt them. Their conversation will make them feel comfortable. Learn to listen.
  7. Try to check the information from oral histories – treat information as clues.
  8. Re-visit your relative after you have new and exciting information to show them. Seeing your material may turn on their memory for another story.

Self-Publishing Family Histories

CreateSpace is down and no longer usable to publish my family histories. All of my previous work was moved to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). This created a problem for family histories because Amazon now demanded all published work be available for public sale which removed the privacy from my family histories.

I now use Lulu.com to self-publish my family histories that I want to remain private. Lulu allows us to publish our works using three options: retail, direct, and private. Family histories can remain private using the direct and private option. The private option requires all purchases of the book to go through the author. The direct option creates a private web page for the book that can not be found by search engines and can be accessed only through using the correct web address assigned to the page. I distribute this address to family members by including it on the copyright page of the books that I give or sell privately to family members. These two options are similar to how my family history books were set up on Createspace before the changes made by Amazon.

I had considered publishing on Lulu.com when I first began publishing my family histories but decide to use Createspace because the cost of the books was much lower at Createspace. One of my family histories is 482 pages and would cost $6.63 on Createspace but now costs $15.86 on Lulu. Since I no longer have Createspace as an option, Lulu is currently the best option to publish a family history and preserve its privacy and have convenient ordering for family members in the future.

However, if privacy is not an issue than Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is a more cost-effective option.

Save your Family Memories

I write family histories to save the stories, pictures, and family history for my children, grandchildren, and all of my future generations. Family gatherings, especially at Christmas time is a great time to start doing this for your family. Collect what you can, write down what you hear, and save them in a ring binder. Organize them by family and ancestor. I hated writing in high school and college but I love doing this. Please try to start. If we don’t do it, who will?

New Book – Find Your Czech and Slovak Ancestors

I’ve been busy this fall writing. I just published a new genealogy book for Czech and Slovak Genealogy Research.

This book is designed to give the researcher the tools needed to research their Czech and Slovak ancestors and find possible answers to the origins of your heritage. The book outlines a simple process that will identify where your ancestors were born and where to find their records. The book lists many up-to-date sources of information that will add to your family history; identify where your ancestors were born and where to find their Czech and Slovak records. Traditional sources are covered but it also discusses many new and exciting sources for records. The book includes many sample documents and tips that should prove useful for both the beginner and the veteran genealogist. The information in this book covers the most up-to-date collection of sources for Czech and Slovak genealogy and should prove to be invaluable when doing your research. This book is for people with roots in Bohemia (Czech), Slovakia, Moravia, or Silesia who feel the need to develop, preserve and share the genealogical, historical and cultural knowledge of their ancestors.

NEW BOOK – My Polish Grandmother: from Tragedy in Poland to her Rose Garden in America

This book is about my grandmother. When researching her life, I found she endured many challenges that made her the strong person that I admired as I grew up around her. In writing my grandmother’s story, I wanted to go beyond the names, dates, and pictures in the photo albums. She was more than that. It is very important to ask why she did what she did.

This book asks questions about her fears when growing up, immigrating to America, and making her new life. How did she face these fears? How did she overcome them? Although I found no answers, I still found new insights about my grandmother.

Our ancestors were part of the wave of emigration that left Europe with the hope of finding work and a better life. It was not easy to immigrate to America. Our ancestors saw immigration to America as their last chance. They had to overcome obstacles getting from their village to the ships and hardships crossing the Atlantic. Then they had to prove they were worthy to be admitted to the United States. Once here, they faced challenges and discrimination to find work and make the better life they were seeking. My grandmother’s story is different because I tried to show how immigration was different for women.

Remember our ancestors made many sacrifices for us and helped build the United States. They could not appreciate what they were doing because they were working hard and surviving each day. However, what they did each day was important. I believe that our role should be to leave something that will help our children remember them. We need to capture the memories by writing our family history. This story is my attempt to preserve my grandmother’s memory.

Future Problems with Publishing my Family Histories

For the past few years I have used Createspace.com to published family histories that have been well-received by my family. These are self-published, print-on-demand, economical and private. Amazon is changing and my perfect solution for sharing my family histories just got harder to do.

Amazon owns Createspace.com for their print-on-demand books. They also own Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) which they used to publish eBooks. Today, they announced that Createspace.com production is being moved to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I also got a second email that informed me that all of my print books would have to be made available on Amazon. This second emailed makes it almost impossible to keep my family histories private and limited distribution to my family members. On Createspace.com I could deselect all channels of distribution which meant only I could order my family history books. This kept non-family members from order the books but now this option will disappear when all of my books are transferred to KDP.

I still recommend organizing our genealogy research into summaries and then into large Word documents. This allows me to be more efficient when doing research, makes it easier to share information with family members, and will probably be saved by family members. However, publishing in book form will increase the chances that it will be saved for future generations.

Amazon is just beginning to implement change and many details are not available. Hopefully, they will allow some way to allow for some books to be private.

Because publishing my family histories for family members is very important, I will continue to look for platforms to do this. Stay tuned for future developments.