There's nothing like a new year to start a new project or get a fresh perspective on an old one.
Genealogy is no different.
I'm not sure how many people have a resolution to search for their family's roots, but in case you are a newbie to the obsession called genealogy, I want to spend the next couple of weeks offering some tips on how to begin.
As I've written before, I "got into" genealogy with my mom several years ago. It was her yearning to know where she came from that started everything. And, soon, I found it was catching.
The searching became easier in the last decade or so as more and more records became digitized and more and more genealogy web sites hit the internet.
My best tip for getting started in your family search is to set a goal for your research. Who do I want to learn about? My mom's side? My dad's side? Both? How far back do I want to go — just a couple generations or to the beginning of time? Do I care about great great great aunts and uncles, or should I concentrate on my direct line? How much time and how much money do I want to spend?
Once you answer some basic questions, you can make a plan.
Many of us use web-based programs for research and to build a tree. My primary resource is Ancestry.com, but I also use FamilySearch.org. There is a subscription cost associated with Ancestry, but FamilySearch is a free service. Another subscription service is My Heritage. I haven't given this one a try, so I won't recommend/not recommend. I like Ancestry because they simply have more records available and more people are using that service. I would recommend FamilySearch if you don't want to pay a fee. I like FamilySearch, but it doesn't have as many records and isn't organized as well, in my opinion, as Ancestry.
However, even those that are subscription-based often have 14-day free trials. If you don't know which service you'd like to use, try a couple out, see what you like and what you don't. Just remember to cancel your subscription before the end of the 14 days.
I'm also going to suggest taking some classes. Most of the libraries in the area not only offer tons of material to be researched, they also often offer classes on how to start or how to use their facility. Get online with the Lake County, Porter County, Hammond or Westchester public libraries and see what they have to offer.
Lake County Public Library has a couple of classes coming up this month. They are:
Jan. 17: Genealogy on the Net
Location: Highland Branch
Time: 2 - 3 PM and 6:30 - 7:30 PM
Topic: Learn how to effectively use the Internet and library tools for genealogical research. Bring any information you have. Time will be set aside for your questions and help with your research.
Jan. 19: I Work Here! Ask Me About Genealogy
Location: Merrillville Branch Genealogy Room
Time: 2 - 4 PM
Topic: Library staff will be available in the Genealogy Room at the Merrillville Branch Library to help with your family history questions and research. The library has local history resources including obituary indexes, yearbooks, cemetery indexes, genealogy databases and much more. Join us for this free help session.
Have fun getting started. Drop me a line with any questions or tips you'd like to share to firstname.lastname@example.org.