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Are you one of the millions who’s discovered that genealogy is absolutely addicting? Ask anyone who’s been at it for even a little while and you’ll inevitably hear tales of surfing the internet in pajamas at three in the morning, climbing over fences to get to abandoned cemeteries, and purposely trying to get locked into libraries overnight. Once you get started, you won’t want to stop.
Why? The thrill of the hunt! Genealogy is your own personal history mystery. You get to play detective, chasing scattered clues across the centuries. It’s time travel at its very best, and in a way, it’s all about you! As you learn about your ancestors, you’ll likely discover why you’re so musical or such a globe trekker. Our roots claim us in ways we don’t even realize.
Sure, you’ll take a few wrong turns along the way, but that’s half the fun. Who wants to read a mystery novel where you can figure out the ending by page 11? With family history, there’s always another clue or ancestor to pursue, and this guide is here to help you on your way.
As with so many activities, a little preparation can go a long way. For many, the first instinct is to jump online, but if you can discipline yourself to do a little offline sleuthing beforehand, you’ll ultimately go a lot further a lot faster. Investigate the clues you’ve probably got tucked away in your attic, closets and basement and call your older relatives (think of them as witnesses to your family history), and you’ll avoid getting stumped or derailed early on. Here are some ideas and strategies to help you get off to a solid start, as well as dodge common pitfalls.
Start with What You Know
Go on a Treasure Hunt
Chart Your Way
Don’t Believe Everything You Read or Hear
The Name Game
Surround and Conquer
Leave a Trail of Bread Crumbs
Get Your Sherlock On - Online!
The above is excerpted and adapted from Who Do You Think You Are?, companion book to the television series of the same name, by Megan Smolenyak.
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