Pictures hold clues to family history and discovering the identity of the man riding the donkey through the backstreets of Santorini Island, Greece might reveal something important.

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There are many genealogical resources including associations, websites and books, which can help you obtain the information you need and I will discuss a few in future blogs. Casual encounters and informal conversations, however, can also yield valuable results.

Here’s a general guideline for your first steps! Select those that best suit your situation.

  1. Quite simply, listen to your family. Whether or not you are part of the conversation is irrelevant. It is amazing what active listening can produce. Take advantage of every situation.
  2. Who are your family’s closest friends? Think past the parameters of blood. Make a list. Regard each person as a potential resource.
  3. Be open, sincere and genuine.  Let your family know that you want to learn more about your ancestral roots and why this particular person is of special interest to you.
  4. Ask your relatives to tell a story. If they were born in another country, for example, ask them what it was like for them growing up. Ask them about their family. Do they have any photographs to show you?
  5. Be respectful. Do not prod anyone for information if they appear reluctant. Accept the fact that some will refuse to explain family mysteries.
  6. Talk to people when they are available. Life can change in the space of a moment. How many of us wish we would have asked those who have passed away more questions?
  7. Be curious. If a relative cherishes a particular object, for example, ask them about it. If you know about an inheritance that you might someday receive, try and find out its significance.
  8. Look at old photograph albums with your family. Have them identify the people in the pictures and tell you a story about them. Label these pictures and record the story as soon as possible.
  9. Try and find out if anyone has any old family documents. If so, ask to see them. Find out what they mean. If possible, obtain a copy.
  10. Go to the cemetery with your family. Ask them about the people buried whom they visit.

One More Thing

I’d recommend that you record everything you learn immediately. Date your entry, identify the source, note the situation and store your records in the system you have already set up. These details may prove a valuable reference at a later date.

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What are your first steps in your genealogical research? I’d welcome your comments.
The next blog will discuss the impact of family dynamics on genealogical research.

Local market in Havana, Cuba

Just like these people are doing in a local market in Havana, Cuba, having a conversation with someone in your family can help you learn about each other.

Dolls from Quito, Ecuador and Jaipur, India

Why would your unmarried childless aunt cherish two dolls that she bought years ago when she traveled to Quito, Ecuador and Jaipur, India? Be curious and find out.

The North Africa Americans Military Cemetery is located in Carthage, Tunisia, North Africa

The North Africa Americans Military Cemetery is located in Carthage, Tunisia, North Africa. Visit the cemetery and learn about your family.