Find Your Roots: Seven Steps to Research Your Family History

how to research family history

Ever wondered about your great-great-grandfather’s occupation or your distant cousin’s life adventures? Discovering your roots can turn these wonderments into a fascinating journey of revelation. Through the exploration, you’ll transform fragmentary knowledge of your family history into a coherent picture of your ancestry. This post will guide you through the process, from gathering personal knowledge to interpreting DNA test results.

Key Takeaways

  • Effective genealogy research begins with gathering personal knowledge from conversations with relatives and collecting family documents, i.e. letters, diaries, and official records, to better understand ancestors’ lives.
  • Organizing genealogical data is crucial as research progresses, with options including online databases, genealogy software, and traditional physical filing systems to maintain systematic storage and ease of access to information.
  • Genealogy research encompasses using free resources like online archives and libraries, analyzing DNA test results to uncover deep ancestry, and expanding horizons through social history and newspaper archives, with the ultimate goal of preserving and sharing findings with family and genealogical societies.

Step #1: Gather Personal Knowledge

To start your family history research, begin by talking to relatives who are older than you and collect any documents like photos, diaries, or letters they may have — everything that could give insights into the lives of your ancestors. 

Interview Your Family Members

To have a successful interview with your family members, preparation is vital. To help you prepare, here are some tips: 

  • Get organized by formulating an appropriate list of questions.
  • Bring any old photos or memorabilia that might spark recollections and reflections from the past as the conversation flows. 
  • Be ready for unexpected changes in direction since the main objective is not just gathering names and dates, but acquiring stories that will give life to your lineage.

Collect Family Documents

Family papers will lead you back in time, revealing more information than just vital records. Birth certificates and marriage licenses can supply details such as names, dates, and locations. Meanwhile, military reports might provide insight into your forebears’ service accounts. On top of all this lies potentially preserved journals or letters, which could delineate what emotions were felt by those ancestors or how they perceived things in their lives.

Do not forget to ask family members if there is any writing material valuable enough for research purposes!

Step #2: Organize Your Research

Organizing your genealogy research is key to keeping track of all the information you’ve collected. This could be done through online databases, specialized software, or more traditional ways like binders and filing systems. It’s about finding what suits you best.

Online Genealogy Databases

The digital age has brought about genealogy databases that have become essential tools for researching one’s family history. Now, platforms such as, MyHeritage, and FamilySearch enable users to scour billions of records from all over the world, ranging from vital statistics data to census information, making it easier than ever before for families everywhere to locate their lineage.

What’s more, these resources offer functionality that allows users not only to discover their roots, but also add information and store associated records in one convenient place, without the need for an internet connection.

Traditional Organization Methods

For people who like the tactile experience of a traditional filing system, organizing genealogy records into folders for each relative and sorting them by generation or surname can be very effective. This method allows one to feel closer to their ancestral heritage through physically touching the research associated with it.

free resources to create your family tree

Step #3: Explore Free Resources

As your family history investigation advances, you’ll find a large number of resources that are beyond your personal experience. There are websites with free records available to broaden the scope of research without any financial strain. Libraries, archives, and genealogy societies also provide beneficial materials that can be utilized in exploring one’s ancestral background. All these sources offer useful data at no cost.

Websites With Free Records

Exploring your family’s background can be made easier with access to free genealogy records from websites like FamilySearch, the National Archives, and Access Genealogy. These give access to a wealth of documents: vital registers, church archives, etc. that could help in researching one’s own ancestry without any cost whatsoever.

In addition, Nuwber can serve as a good means of establishing connections with your relatives. We collect various public records about people, enabling you to look up individuals by different parameters, whether by phone, name, or address.

Libraries and Archives

Genealogists can find an array of documents, records, and genealogical materials in archives and libraries. Both local libraries and national institutions contain historically relevant resources that online research may not reveal but are often overlooked.

Genealogy Societies

Genealogical societies bring together researchers while providing them with essential resources such as educational programs and the chance to associate with other genealogy aficionados. These gatherings can significantly improve one’s research on matters related to military service or state censuses since the societies furnish useful help and materials.

Step #4: Delve Into Paid Subscriptions

As a rule, paid subscriptions offer access to an even larger bank of records and tools with more complex search capabilities. This can allow users to obtain faster and more relevant results, thereby streamlining their research process. 

Compare Subscription Services

When it comes to choosing a paid subscription platform, comparing the services provided by each is of utmost importance. Items for examination should include offerings in terms of data diversity and quantity and the quality of general user experience. and MyHeritage offer their own set of features that can be evaluated according to one’s needs. Both platforms have a free trial period, so give it a try and pick the right fit based on your personal requirements.

Nuwber in turn offers a subscription to obtain extended information about the person you’re looking for. If a free search doesn’t produce the desired results, then you could subscribe to perform unlimited searches and get comprehensive answers to your questions.

Step #5: Analyze DNA Test Results

Genetic genealogy, which brings together traditional family history and DNA testing, can tell you a lot about your ancestors and their migration paths, plus uncover surprising relationships between individuals. Comprehending the results obtained from these assessments requires adeptness in science to gain full understanding.

Types of DNA Tests

For the purpose of genealogical research, there are a variety of DNA tests one can take advantage of. Y-DNA testing focuses on revealing your direct paternal ancestors while mtDNA examines maternal relatives and offers details about them. On the other hand, autosomal DNA provides an overall assessment regarding ethnicity as well as identifying living relations through ancestry test results.

Interpreting Test Results

Learning to utilize the information presented in DNA testing results can be tricky. With a bit of guidance, one is able to use such data for family tree research. You should understand what each test type reveals, and how best to navigate through the testing company’s website and connect your genetic outcomes back into your lineage exploration.

find long lost relatives

Step #6: Expand Your Research Horizons

After compiling and organizing your family history data, an investigation is in order. Extending the research boundaries can reveal deeper aspects of one’s family history by looking at social records, reading old newspapers, and investigating land holdings as well as court documents.

Social History

Examining the conditions and environment during your ancestors’ time, such as economic shifts, disease outbreaks, or climatic changes, will shed light on why they lived their lives in a particular way. Investigating these social elements of history gives valuable context to uncovering the details of your ancestral lineage.

Newspaper Archives

Newspaper archives can be an excellent source of knowledge concerning your ancestors. Obituaries, birth and marriage announcements, social activities, and legal notices may all give in-depth insights into their lives. These historical papers offer a glimpse at the environment in which our kin lived, helping us more fully understand what their lives were like.

Land and Court Records

Family records, including land and court documents, may offer details about property possession, legal affairs, as well as relationships among relatives or social connections. Census data is very significant for anyone researching their great-grandparents’ life stories. These records are crucial to understanding your predecessors’ experiences better.

Step #7: Preserve and Share Your Findings

Preserving and distributing your family history research is paramount as it will remain a lasting legacy for your future generations. Here are several methods to keep the memory alive:

  • Record what sources were used.
  • Scan documents into digital formats.
  • Create diagrams illustrating ancestral links.
  • Construct photo albums of ancestors.
  • Publish books containing details about your lineage.
  • Relay discoveries with extended family members. 
  • Build websites/blogs to share findings.

By utilizing these processes, you can ensure your heritage lives on.

Document Sources

Accurately documenting information is an essential part of genealogy research. Not only does this practice provide credibility for your findings, but it also helps other researchers check the accuracy and expand on your work. When citing sources, make sure all relevant facts are included and take caution not to commit any mistakes commonly made in such scenarios.

Create Family Trees and Albums

Discovering and displaying your family background can be a fascinating endeavor. Different software tools or web applications are available to help design captivating and informative family trees, allowing you to quickly understand the line of descent for each branch on the tree.

Photographs, records, memoirs — all these elements can bring an ancestor’s story alive through a great album that shares their past lives with others. Collectively, they give us insight into our own heritage as part of this larger picture called ‘family history’.

Share Stories and Memories

Exploring family genealogy can be a great way to get loved ones involved. Sharing stories and memories at reunions or on the web enables people in your clan to have an appreciation of their collective heritage. It’s like bringing everyone’s ancestry alive by looking into past generations, one story after another.


Gathering your family history can be a long process, but also incredibly rewarding. With the right resources and tools — personal knowledge, free/paid records searches plus DNA tests — you have all that you need to discover who your ancestors were and where they came from. Don’t forget to investigate social history archives as well. After finding out more about yourself through research, make sure to preserve it for future generations so that their own search won’t start with an empty page, void of information.


How do I start researching my family history?

Begin your family history research by speaking with living relatives and looking at records such as birth, marriage, and death certificates along with any other family documents. Pay special attention to names, dates of events, places associated, and how they are all related together. Then you can expand the search in governmental databases on both state and national levels for details.

How do I find my family history for free?

Uncovering your family tree is possible at no cost on websites like FamilySearch, which provides records and information for tracing the lineage of one’s relatives. This genealogy website has become globally known, as it offers its services without any charge whatsoever.

Free people search platforms are also available for you. We only note that paid services are more responsible about collecting and verifying information to ensure its accuracy.

How can I understand my DNA test results for genealogy research?

To delve into the knowledge of one’s ancestral background, it’s important to understand how DNA testing works and which types can be beneficial for family history research. To make sense of your results without getting lost in confusion, go through the website of the testing company and link them with existing family tree records. This way, you can gain valuable information about your genetic roots.

How can I share and preserve my genealogy research?

Documenting sources and preserving genealogical research, as well as sharing stories and memories with family members, can be made easier by using various software or online tools. Hence, beautiful visuals like trees showing familial relationships and albums containing special moments of the past are able to be shared amongst loved ones easily.

Eugene Kirdzei
Eugene Kirdzei

Chief Technical Officer at Nuwber
With nearly two decades of experience in the IT industry, Eugene possesses comprehensive knowledge across his professional field, including in data management, data protection, and information search. Through his writing, he aims to provide valuable insights and practical advice on how to safely explore the online environment and leverage digital tools to enhance people’s lives.