5 Basic Ways to Learn About Your Family History

A few ancestry photos hanging

We all have different stories.  

Learning about your family history helps provide you with family stories to share for years to come, but also, it allows you to understand how your family persevered and made it to where they are now.  What events did your parents or grandparents live through, are there any special traditions that have been passed down your family tree?

Here are 5 things you can do to start learning about your story: 

  1. The most important thing when you start researching your family history is to start with what you know. Create a basic (free) family tree with ancestry.com or familysearch.org. Add in full names, birth dates, family members and anything you know to be true about your family, you can even include some photographs that you have of relatives. Allow your kids to join in the fun too by downloading a coloring sheet for them to complete. 
  2. Next, talk to your relatives. You can Facetime with distant cousins, grandparents, great aunts and uncles and ask them questions about their lives. We included a few questions below to help get you started.
    • Where were you born? 
    • What are/were your parents like?
    • What occupation did you have? 
    • Tell us a fun story from your childhood.
    • Are there any family legends or myths that were passed down to you? 

      PRO TIP: Write down everything! All the stories, even the far-fetched or incomplete ones, because you’d be surprised what parts of them could be true! 
  3. Expand on what you learned. Utilize the internet during this time of uncertainty because sites like Ancestry.com, Familysearch.org or archives.gov provide free access or trial services. You can take what you’ve learned and start digging through census records, military records and birth and death records to learn even more! You may stumble upon a 4th cousin that lives right around the corner! 
  4. Stop and review what you’ve learned. Did you find out which country your great grandfather came from? Try learning about that countries culture, what their architecture looks like or a fun recipe to try. You could even take a peek through Google Earth at famous landmarks.
  5. Lastly, it’s important to look through our histories, but it’s also important to look at our current lives and what our stories are now. Have fun with your family and try to capture this moment in history by creating a time capsule!  Find things that you can tuck away and plan to open the time capsule years from now, maybe at a family reunion.


Article by Lindsey Williamson, Digital Marketing Specialist at the YMCA of Greater Brandywine and genealogy hobbyist.