Family History Starts With You

With the second season of NBC’s popular “Who Do You Think You Are? now underway, millions of Americans are considering looking into their own family roots.

Over the last 25 years spent editing genealogy-related magazines, I’ve often been asked how to get started in genealogy. My reply has consistently been, “Start with yourself.” By starting with yourself, you can work from the known to the unknown with a solid platform of data from which to do your research.

I actually recommend that you start out by interviewing yourself. You can record the data by voice recording, but you’ll find that writing things down will give you the opportunity to analyze what you have.

Start out by answering a few simple questions.

  • How old are you now?
  • Where and when were you born?
  • Where was your mother born?
  • What was your mother’s maiden name?
  • Do you know where your grandmother on your mother’s side was born?
  • Do you know where your grandfather on your mother’s side was born?
  • Where was your father was born?
  • Do you know where your grandmother on your father’s side was born?
  • Do you know where your grandfather on your father’s side was born?
  • Basic genealogical data is made up of names, dates, and places. Where was someone born? When were they born? Where and when did they marry? Where and when did they die? Upon this framework (skeleton?) hangs the entire family tree. Once you have these basic facts, you can proceed to find biographical data, and the stories that make family history interesting.

    Once you’ve exhausted what you know, move on to your relatives (mother, father, aunts, uncles, cousins, and so forth. Interview them for whatever they may know about the family. I find it helpful to have a list of important questions to ask when doing an interview. Numerous books have been written on the subject, but I still believe that the best book, as well as the best value for the dollar, is William Fletcher’s “Recording Your Family History.” The book is absolutely loaded with questions that you most likely would never think of on your own. And the 313 page book is only $9.95 from Family Roots Publishing.

    If you’re getting into genealogy and want to know the latest news, check out I think you will enjoy it.

    Until next week…

    Leland K. Meitzler


    I have been involved with publishing and marketing for the past 32 years. My passion is helping people share their voice. I am able to do this through two important venues: One, with where people can share everything from opinions to events to news. It is your choice! What do you want to share? Two, through a new program called America's Real Deal I am involved with to help business owners get their voice heard.I schedule speaking engagements with community groups and business groups to share my passion about the importance of "sharing your voice".Contact me directly at for scheduling information.

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