Any of us can now deepen our recognition of the fundamental oneness of humanity by exploring our personal family connections across the globe and throughout time. Here's some free tools to get you started.
Here's how to begin exploring your own family history. It's free and no DNA testing is required. Regardless of where you live, or how little you think you know about your family, you can begin.
Human Family Tree: Shallow Roots - You would only have to go back in time 2,000 to 5,000 years -- and probably on the low side of that range -- to find somebody who could count every person alive today as a descendant.
New to Genealogy: Beginners First Steps - The family history research site, www.familysearch.org, is an excellent resource for both beginning, and seasoned, family history researchers. This site is the single most useful site on the internet, because of the immense amount of actual historical records that have been scanned and indexed. You can literally see actual census records from two-hundred years ago, for example, or medieval church records, etc. Although the site is sponsored by the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), it has no religious content and is offered free of charge. Like other online sites, you do have to create a free account with an email address. The family history databases available are amazing in their quality and scope. Although coverage varies by country, and time period, virtually every country in the world has records available, and records are available over long periods of time.
Getting Started on Your Family History - Another guide to getting started.
Ancestry.com - Another goldmine of scanned and indexed historical records. Although the site is fee-based, virtually every public library offers free in-library access to the site to anyone with a library card.
African-American Genealogy: An Online Interactive Guide for Beginners - Researching African-American genealogy can be challenging, particularly as you work through records from before the Civil War. The good news is that resources are becoming more accessible all the time. Personal note: I recently helped an African-American friend trace her family history back to a point well before the U.S. Civil War. I share this only to encourage folks to begin. Despite the difficulties, it can be done.
Tracing Your African-American Genealogy - This is a helpful overview of some of the key concepts to have in mind when researching African-American family history. For more helpful information, also see this page of resources to jumpstart your research.
3 Tips for Using Google for Genealogy - Google search is another powerful tool for family research. However, it needs to be used in conjunction with other research. A simple Google search may, for example, turn up many potentially useful results. However, lots of those results may also be irrelevant, or, in many cases, simply wrong. The key is to take what you find in Google and use other verifiable, historical records to confirm, or reject, what you find on Google.
6 ‘Secret’ Google Search Tricks for Genealogy That’ll Help You Find Your Ancestors - A few more very useful "tricks" to help Google find what you're really looking for.
Watch Out for Genealogy Errors - Here are some tips that can help you avoid repeating and compounding errors in your research.
Helpful International Websites - Most of the sites already mentioned above offer helpful international resources. Here are a few more of special interest for non-U.S. family history research.
Today's post focuses on free resources in doing family history research. However, perhaps you're curious about what fee-based DNA testing can, and cannot, reveal. Here's a couple of resources about that.
DNA Testing Can Bring Families Together, But Gives Mixed Results - Advances in DNA technology can help family history research move past brick walls. However, results need to be considered in light of potential limits on their accuracy.
Overcoming Brick Walls in Your Family Tree with a Genealogy DNA Test - Sometimes, a DNA test can work alongside other research methods and help break through a brick wall when nothing else can.