Quick, name the most popular hobbies in the United States today. Did you guess genealogy? Did it even make your top 10? Well, it should.
In fact, according to some listings, genealogy is among the top five hobbies nationwide.
Whether it’s a need to know more about family health concerns, a desire to reconnect with past generations of relatives, or simply a fascinating way to pass idle time, family history research has boomed amid the coronavirus pandemic.
More Than Names and Dates
Genealogy is the study of families, family history, and the tracing of family trees.
But it is so much more than just putting together lists of names, birth, and death dates. It’s about where your ancestors came from, how their world affected who they were, how they lived, and eventually, how they came to have children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, all the way to down to you.
Easier Than Ever
For generations, genealogy meant spending endless hours walking through creepy cemeteries or digging through dusty shelves of books on census data and courthouse records.
Today, it only takes a few minutes of Googling “genealogy resources” or “family tree sites” to realize there are literally thousands of research options, websites, and online tools available at the click of a button. Yes, some cost money, but there is also an amazing assortment of free options available as well.
If you’re new to genealogy or looking to give it a try for the first time, it might be worth your time to do a little research first on how to get started. Here are a couple of sites worth reading over before jumping in with both feet (though that works too!).
- National Genealogical Society (Getting Started) – provides a well thought-out, free step-by-step guide on the best way to begin your journey.
- Genealogy for Beginners by Marc McDermott – another insightful article to help you build a blueprint and game plan for your research.
If you do want to jump right in, here are a couple of great free sites well worth visiting:
- FamilySearch – When it comes to ease of use and depth of tools, FamilySearch is possibly the best free genealogy website around.
- The USGenWeb Project - one of the most detailed free ancestry websites on the web, although its site map is quite extensive and takes some getting used to before you can navigate it with ease.
In a world that is constantly changing, there is something almost therapeutic in spending time reconnecting with your family history.
Working out who your ancestors were, and understanding the challenges they faced during their lifetime, can sometimes help us gain a much-needed perspective on who we are, and the challenges we face.