Genealogists and Family Historians

Genealogy is the research and study of family history. People who engage in such research, either as a hobby or as a career option, are known as genealogists. Most genealogists find that that compiling a family history can take weeks, months, or even years depending upon how detailed of a narrative they strive to create. Genealogists may choose to record all of the information they discover in a book format, on a website, or in the form of a family tree that can be distributed amongst other family members as a keepsake to be passed on to future generations or added to by future genealogists.

Whether a beginning genealogist or one who has been studying family history for decades, it's important to keep a written journal of important information, such as names, dates of birth, and places of birth for all family members. Genealogists should also make special efforts to interview all living relatives and record similar information from them. Along with the journal, any photos, special awards, birth records, military records, marriage certificates, and other official documents that link to the past should be safely stored in an appropriate box or other storage system. A written record of what each item is, where it is stored, and where it was found is also a good idea to keep track of in a journal format. By indexing information in this way, a future genealogist will find it easy to access the data and objects that have already been collected. Also, creating a family tree separate from the written journal is a good idea. Free family tree templates can be found at or at

While genealogists don't require any special education to begin their research efforts, they can benefit from attending workshops designed to help them hone their research skills. A free Intro to Genealogy course is offered online. Or, for information on workshops that are available nationwide throughout the year, visit The National Archives website for a list of genealogy events and workshops. also offers links to online and home study courses for genealogists to learn more about family research tools, resources, and methods.

Most genealogists also find that it helps to have an open mind when researching a family history. Often it is discovered that a last name that is currently spelled a certain way, wasn't necessarily the case 100 years ago. By expanding their search parameters to include alternate spellings, genealogists find that they are often led to information they may have otherwise missed. The same is true for family legends and myths. Stories that have been passed on through an oral tradition are sometimes fictionalized along the way. Genealogists expect this and leave room in their research for information to be corrected or even omitted if it is proven false.

The Internet is a great resource for genealogists to begin their research journey. Twenty years ago, genealogists found that their research was often delayed as they were forced to physically travel to different locations in order to obtain vital records, newspaper stories, or other useful research information. By having access to a lot of this information online, genealogists are discovering that a great deal of their research is literally right at their fingertips. However, there are times that genealogists find it necessary to visit a physical location to gather information. In those cases, a resource like Random Acts of Genealogy Kindness is an invaluable asset as genealogists can search for volunteers who may be close to the location in question and who are willing to conduct the visit on their behalf.

For more information on family research, beginning or advanced genealogists will certainly find the following websites helpful: (For surname research)

Marriage Records

The AfriGeneas Library (For African American genealogy research)

Global Tree