What's a Raconteur?


A person who tells anecdotes in a skillful and amusing way; a storyteller; a narrator

Tips and Tricks for Amateur Genealogists: Getting Started Discovering Your Ancestry

Are you curious about your family history? Are you ready to dive into the deep rabbit hole of genealogy? 

Our life story books often include a chapter on the subject’s origins—their ancestry. Sometimes, the subject provides existing ancestral resources to our writers, but other times, we do the digging ourselves. Along the way, we have learned some tips and tricks that may help you get started on the exciting journey of discovering your family history. 

1. Record What You Already Know

As simple as that sounds, it is worth saying, as it is critical to getting started and staying organized. Start by writing down your parents’ names and any dates, locations, or key facts involving their lives. From there, document what you know about your grandparents, and if you know anything about your great-grandparents, include that as well. This data will become the key that turns the lock of your research. 

2. Talk to Family Members

Your siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents are treasure troves of information. By asking loved ones what they know about the family’s history, you may discover more great information to start with. When you ask about what your loved ones know, take along a notebook and paper and jot down any names, dates, or stories they recall. 

3. Use Multiple Sources, Including Free Ones

Although there are some incredible resources worth investing in out there, such as Ancestry.com, we recommend incorporating free resources such as FamilySearch.com, FindAGrave.com, and Archives.gov as well. These websites can help you double-check information and fill in holes. It’s also helpful to check what genealogy research resources are available through your local library. 

4. Expand Your Research Beyond Just the Basics

You may naturally be inclined to look for census, birth, baptismal, marriage, and death records. Those are extremely informative and usually easily accessible. In addition, though, we recommend delving a bit further by searching for the following, which sometimes shed great insight into the person behind the name and dates:

Immigration records
Medical records
Military records
Newspaper databases
Tax records
Voter registration

5. Visit Churches and Cemeteries
If your ancestors lived nearby where you presently do, there is no better way to conduct research than by going straight to the source. Check local church records and cemeteries. Holding a baptismal certificate in hand or walking up to a grave solidifies your research and makes it more exciting.  

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The subject(s) of the book will communicate their story to a writer
The subject(s) of the book has passed away and other loved ones will relay their story to the writer
The subject(s) of the book has written pieces of their life story, but needs a writer to add to and refine the work for publication

Are you ready to learn more about preserving your loved one's life story?

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