Now That I Want to Play in the Family Tree What Do I Do?

By Sue Randolph Neikirk

For many of us we grew up with the idea of how much we really just hated history class. “What does history have to do with us? Why should we care? It has nothing to do with us. It’s Boring!” (Did you feel that eye roll)?

I recalled times my great granny spoke of family and I listened with half an ear. Her ownmom…my great great granny (born in 1863) who I still remember, had a grandma that was Abe Lincolns cousin, or at least that is what they said. Of course, that meant nothing to me. I was a kid and seldom believed anything told me at that time. And since it was the 1960s and I was rebellious of everything including family history. And like any person working on their own genealogy today I am kicking myself and would love to have asked more and listened to my elders for once. It wasn’t until about 30 years later I did find the truth about Abe Lincoln….yep, it is true.

I love a good mystery and genealogy is a mystery. It’s also a five-thousand-piece puzzle without an edge or corners. Genealogy makes you work your mind for the truth. At times you will have months of great family discoveries and then suddenly a huge brick wall comes slamming down in front of you for the next 10 years, 10 if you’re lucky forever if you’re not.

For those of us genealogy Addicts of a certain age…old…we recall the use of snail mail to ask questions of family or county vital records offices, carrying envelope to the mailbox and possibly giving it a hug and kiss and pray over it that we get our answers back as soon as possible. Back in those good old days copies of those records were often free. How times change. Today, sadly, we pay for those copies.

So, what do you start with? Walk the the closest mirror and look. You want to start with that person in front of you. And like any hobby you can make this new hobby as cheap or as expensive as you wish.

First thing I always suggest is check out your own local library. You will find them on your computer and usually they have databases you can use from your home so you can keep you pj’s on. What genealogy books and magazine do they have to check out? The local library is too often overlooked. Often if they do not have a book you are searching for, they can borrow it through an interlibrary loan which can be mailed to the library from other states. Or if the book may be a great part of their collection, they may buy it. Just ask your librarian.

Today we have become swamped with millions of websites, both free and pay. Today we can spend hours on the phone, discussing family history with 100+ year old auntie Maggie up in the wilds of Maine. She may be savvy enough with that cell phone to take photos of old family pictures and documents and send them to you in an instant instead of waiting weeks, months or never for them to arrive. You must ask questions of all family member you can back into a corner before those people are no longer with us. So ask those question and don’t be afraid to ask the difficult ones.

Today, we can zip back and forth across the ocean in an instant in search for our family lines. We don’t even have to get out of your pj’s to do it.

Any day I have off of the old grind, aka work, I kick on Big Bertha (my desk top computer. Yes I name my computers, dont you?) at about 8am. Throughout the day I may have 10-20 tabs open for quick back and forth of pages.

Today there are thousands of sites, both pay and free the problem is where to start. Many sites require membership even if they are free to use. So, let’s take a look at some of the many sites we can zip around in now days…. just a few for now. $ The genealogy site we all love and hate at the same time. The site that also got us out of our work day clothes and into Pajama Genealogy mode. Free For genealogy this is the largest genealogy hoarding site in the world and we do love FREE goodies


Facebook FREE Another group we love to hate but, like all of the sites, it is a great place to get that help like a friend across the table. Almost like a face-to-face discussion on what to tackle that next problem with grandma. Facebook contains thousands of genealogy groups. Groups not just about genealogy but history, historical fashion, dating old photos. States, countries, languages handwriting. Thousands are anxious to help. And of course don’t forget the GAA (genealogy addicts anonymous) groups while you’re there Free Not only can you find how to repair your toilet, crochet, cook BUT best of all Genealogy. It helps with beginners to those that have been working on it for decades. Need help on your Polish, English, Irish, Russian ancestor and more? YouTube will be there to educate and enjoy. And don’t forget the radio shows there such as Extreme Genes Family History Radio and many others. Pinterest Not just for crafts. You can find all types of help here which include how do discover your family genealogy, genealogy crafts, storage for genealogy, research for different countries….well, anything to do with genealogy you will find links here. The problem with using Pinterest is making yourself get out of it.

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