Tips for Taking up Family History Research in Retirement
Thanks to the modern popularity of genealogy research, it’s never been easier to start learning about your family history.
Although genealogy is popular across different age groups, retirement is a great opportunity to get started on this hobby. While enjoying your time at an Ottawa independent living community, why not explore your family’s lineage and discover more about your ancestors?
What Is Genealogy and Why Is It So Popular Today?
Genealogy is often referred to as a family history since it is the study of one’s family origins.
In the simplest form, a family history can be mapped out on a family tree. Family stories passed down from one generation to the next have helped people create their family trees and preserve the past for future generations.
Although families have been mapping out family trees for thousands of years, the recent rise in popularity for genealogy across the globe can be linked to the vast and accessible ancestry records and databases available online.
So whether you want to collect and preserve family information or connect with distant relatives online, the study of your family history is at your fingertips.
How It Works as A Hobby
For genealogy to work for you as a hobby, you have to identify it as such, and keep this goal in the right perspective.
As rewarding as genealogy is, it’s also important to maintain your other hobbies as well for a more fulfilling and healthy lifestyle. It can be easy to get wrapped up in all your research, spending countless hours digging deep into your ancestry. Make sure you set aside enough time for this hobby as you would any other hobby.
You can set goals for yourself that correspond to different steps in the genealogy path, from collecting family information in person and then online, to compiling your findings and sharing your family history with your relatives.
Tips to Get Started
The first step to getting started with genealogy is to focus on preserving memories, documents, and photographs that both you and your family have collected. Instead of jumping in to an online database and gathering the names of all your ancestors right away, you should focus on collecting information from your family in person.
To start, focus on your ancestors only two to four generations back and record their descendants. Then you can determine who of these descendants are still living and contact them for more information on your family.
It’s important to gather as much data (photos, documents, and memories) from your family members while they are still around. Memories can become fragile and photos can get lost, so it’s important to take care of this first goal before moving on to the next steps of your family history research.
Tips for Preserving Memories
Ask as many questions as you can, both basic facts (birth dates, birth location, where they grew up) and more detailed questions about their lifestyles growing up and their motivations. The more interesting the questions, the more captivating your family history will be when you share it in a story for others to read.
Examples of questions to ask include:
- What was life like when you were a kid?
- Did you have any pets growing up?
- Did you have any nicknames?
- What kind of music did you listen to?
- Who are those people in the photographs?
- How did you meet your significant other?
- Why did you choose your profession?
- What are your favourite hobbies?
- What are your fondest memories?
With the permission of your family members, record them on video while asking your questions. It’s much easier and more comfortable to have a natural conversation if you aren’t constantly writing down or typing information.
You can also get other family members to ask more questions for you. Don’t forget to answer these questions yourself and record your own life history for your genealogy project.
Collect and Upload Documents and Photos
Whether on your own or with the help of tech-savvy family members, upload and label digital copies of all the photos and documents you collect during your research. This will ensure there are copies accessible for future generations that won’t get lost or damaged.
Build a Network of Family Collaborators
Contact both your immediate and your extended family, including some distant cousins. Tell them you are recording your family history, and ask them for help with sharing information.
Input from other family members can also help you solve any family mysteries and verify rumours or information that you’ve come across along your search.
If you find your conclusions clash with another’s, then you are better off leaving that subject alone. And if you have reached out to family who are not interested in their family history, that’s okay. Hopefully, they will still be willing to answer your questions even if they aren’t willing to ask their own.
Organize Your Information
Whether you have hardcopy files, computer files, or you are using a family ancestry website, make sure to add and organize information as you collect it. Staying organized will keep you from feeling overwhelmed with too much information.
Here are other tips to help you get started with genealogy:
- Start your own immediate family tree. Include as much information as you can gather about your grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, nieces, nephews, children, and grandchildren;
- Search for family scrapbooks for photos and documents;
- Start your online family tree;
- Search family history online using ancestry databases and records;
- Follow a family story. Identify a family story that you are interested in exploring with research;
- Search for relatives online to make new connections with extended family members and gather information;
- Write a story. Once you’ve gathered enough accurate information about a family member, write an interesting story about their life to include in your genealogy records.
Genealogy is an exciting hobby to pursue in retirement. You never know what stories you’ll uncover and who you’ll meet along the way. You can continue your family legacy, uncovering stories from the past and making sure these stories will be passed along to future generations. Best of all, it can help bring you closer to your family, while creating a better understanding and a sense of pride in your family history.