Why Are So Many People Involved in Family History and How Can I to Get Started

Summary of presentation given in Red Deer on 15 July 2013

What is the difference between genealogy and family history?  To me this is the difference between lists of dates and places on charts and learning about people’s lives.  I think of genealogy as a subset of Family History

 How popular is family history?

“Today, genealogy ranks second … as the most searched topic online. According to a January 2012 report by market research firm Global Industry Analysts, an estimated 84 million people around the world spend anywhere from $1,000 to $18,000 a year in search of their ancestors. . . . It’s a demographic projected to grow 36 percent by 2020, three times as fast as any other group.”  http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-09-20/ancestry-dot-coms-genealogical-juggernaut

Hard numbers are difficult to come by, but hobby experts believe that genealogy ranks second only to gardening as American’s favorite pastime.  http://abcnews.go.com/Business/genealogy-hot-hobby-worth-16b-mormons/story?id=17544242#.Udthfj54YS8

Ancestry.com has 2 million subscribers and had $1 billion revenue in 2012

 Why do people do Family History?

1. Curiosity about ourselves and our ancestors  – driven to find out Who am I ?  Where did I come from?  Why am I the way I am?

I am who I am because of my ancestors – what were they like?  Where does my family come from?  What challenges and successes did they have?  These individuals over the centuries helped make us who we are today – do we want to pass this knowledge to our children and grandchildren?

2. Solving a puzzle or mystery  – and sorting truth from myth.  Are those stories about your family really true?

3. Helped by the great increase in accessibility of records – and with the help of technology

4. Old photographs and stories can be very important

5. Medical records and histories? – can they help us prevent health problems?

 A special feeling comes to us when we draw close to our ancestors by learning about their lives  – they are not just names – real people

We believe that families are forever – that we have the opportunity to be eternal families – there is a special bond within a family.  This special feeling extends to our ancestors.  We can all feel this as we engage in Family History.

We turn our hearts to our fathers as we take part in Family History.  We link generations and can feel a special closeness and love for our family.

 Getting to know great grandfather – presentation – what can you find – when you start with just one clue

Follow the Research Cycle

  1. Identify and gather what you know – and what others in your family know – then find out what has been found by others on the Internet – ask where did you get this from – dependable sources are crucial – don’t play the “someone said” game especially with things you find on the internet – beware of rumours/legends/myths – the Spanish baby in the basket floating in the sea – good to record the myths – which are often entertaining –  and the reality.
  2. Decide what you want to learn – one family at a time – one research objective at a time – select the easiest research objective first – keep a research log showing what you were looking for, where you looked and what you found – always include recording that you found nothing
  3. Select records to search – common record types include:  census, civil registrations of births, marriages and deaths, church records.  Remember only about 10% of records are on the Internet.
  4. Obtain and search the records – may be able to do this on the Internet, may need to look at microfilm, may need to request copies of records (like Canadian military records) – record your findings – even if you found nothing
  5. Evaluate and use the information – transfer what you found to your computer based family history program – share with family members (email them reports and charts) and share through online family trees – then re-start your research cycle (go back to step 1)


  1. Don’t avoid asking for help – very very important.  There are lots of people you can ask for help.
  2. Gathering stories and photographs a great place to start
  3. Expect to find skeletons – we all have them – embrace them!  They probably need a hug!
  4.   What if I run into a roadblock or a deadend?  or rather when you run into a roadblock or deadend – we all have them.  As you get back in your family tree you have lots of roads – 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128 direct parents in 8 generations.  Lots of roads – just take another for now.  New records are always becoming available.  Leave dead ends and come back.

Where can I got for help?

  1. Visit the Family History Centre in Red Deer – go and find out what is there and how can they help.  There are also FHCs in Olds and Rocky Mountain House.
  2. Consider attending the meetings of the Red Deer Branch of the Alberta Genealogical Society – interesting presentations and interesting people who you can ask about your research – they meet on the 4th Wednesday of each month at 7 pm from Sept to Nov, and from Jan to June
  3. Visit and use the research wiki at FamilySearch.org – great source of “how to do” and “what can I find” information.  There is also getting started helps at FamilySearch including videos.
  4. Consider helping to make more records available on the Internet by helping with Indexing at FamilySearch.org

Clan McCloud video (9 minutes)

The Power of One – finding one person, one event, one link to our ancestors – building one bond of love and strengthening our family.


This entry was posted in FamilySearch.org, General, Getting Started, Research, Wiki at FamilySearch.org. Bookmark the permalink.

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