Need Help Getting Started?


Often, as newcomers to family history, we just do not understand WHERE to start. Hopefully, you will have a better idea as you read on.

A few years ago, FamilySearch started a concept called Discover, Gather, Connect. This concept can be very helpful as it provides a framework in how to get started in family history.

#1 - Discover Your Heritage!

To better understand our heritage, we should spend some time exploring our family tree, and more about each of those ancestors and collateral lines cousins. This process is called "DISCOVERY". You will need to create an account to access your family tree, and then connect yourself to your first deceased ancestor by finding them as an existing person in Family Tree.

FamilySearch's Family Tree may already hold quite a bit of information about your family including photos, stories, and other information. If you are already connected to a family tree in FamilySearch, then you can begin to explore what information you have on your tree. Use the Fan Chart View to see what information it holds. See the example below. You can click on the different filters in the Legend Box, but you may first want to concentrate on which ancestors have stories or photos.


There are other types of "discovery activities" that you can explore as well. Explore these activities by clicking on the button below.

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#2 - Gather (or Preserve) Your Heritage!

After we have visited FamilySearch's Family Tree, we should have a better idea about who our ancestors are. If you were lucky, you may have found some stories and seen some photos about your ancestors that others in your "family" (living cousins, or immediately family) may have uploaded to FamilySearch. You may now realize that you have some old photos, letters, stories, and maybe even some old audio recordings of your family line. Wouldn't it be great to upload those items that you have to your family tree? This process is called "GATHERING". We search around our home for what information we may have in our own possession.

  • We GATHER up any items that we can find. These may be photos, stories, audio recordings, VHS tapes, old letters, old movie film, and so on.
  • We PRESERVE these items. If they are items that can be scanned, we digitize or scan them. If they are physical items like grandpa's old glasses, grandma's old dress, etc, we can photograph them and put them in safe places.
  • We SHARE these with other family members by uploading them to FamilySearch. With their "share links", we can send these out to family for them to view as well. This helps them to "discover" more about their heritage as well.

Perhaps you were not so lucky in finding anything attached to your family tree members or the information was scarce. Hopefully you began to feel some connection to them, enough to want to find out more about them. Another way we can "gather" information about our family is to look at online records. These are increasingly easy to find, especially when FamilySearch "Record Hints" begin to find information for you. These "record hints" are the little blue icons associated with your different ancestors. These records will often include Census Records that can help you fill in more family members, or give you a better idea about what the occupation was, or the house number and street name. You may find hints for marriage, birth, and death events. Death records often show the reason why the died, their age, family, and so on. And, as noted previously, you may remember that you have photos, letters, and stories about them.

As we "Gather" any information we have available in our homes, or interview our parents or grandparents and upload that information to our family tree, we are also creating "discovery" opportunities for our children and other family members, even distant ones.

There are some ideas below that can help you know how to better preserve information like photographs, audio recordings, stories, documents, movies, etc. Take some time to look through these pages.

Need Some Help Preserving Your Heritage?

#3 - Connect With Your Family, Both Living & Deceased!

The third process in this concept is "CONNECT". As spend time individually and as a family preserving our heritage, finding new ancestors, and discovering new things about them, we naturally begin to feel that connection with them. We better understand their lives, the challenges they faced, their talents and occupations, and so much more. Our "hearts are connected to them".

There is another aspect of the "Connect" that also gets passed on down to our own posterity. We preserve the memories of our own life through story, photos, audio recordings, etc and pass them on to our children, grandchildren, and on down. We want them to know about our own life events that shaped us, the legacy we leave, our hopes and aspirations for our posterity. Connecting to our posterity, AND they, to us will also become and integral part of our family history efforts.

It is said that "90% of one's heritage disappears after 3 generations" unless it is preserved. We need to preserve the heritage that we have been given, as well as our own heritage that we pass on to our own posterity. Photos may be preserved, but unless they have labels on them, they simply become "nameless faces" over time. Old movies may be fun to view, but if the participants in the film are not documented, they also become nameless persons to their posterity. Simple stories associated with a photo or two will make those ancestors "come to life" for generations to come. Audio recordings of a great-grandmother singing a song in her native language can become a treasure to pass on down generations.

FamilySearch makes it so easy to preserve our stories, photos, and audio recordings and then easily share them with our posterity. A grandfather telling a story about a life event with associated photos, can be a real treat when shared with his grandchildren through a simple link in a text message or email. Their hearts and ours connect in doing so.

In Summary...

Understanding these three general aspects can be quite helpful in starting your own family history efforts. You will probably have family members that have never set foot in their family tree.

DISCOVERY activities are one way to get you and your family members interested in your heritage. There are so many resources and ideas out there to help you discover more about your heritage. Some ideas can be found CLICK HERE.

GATHERING more information about your ancestors such as their stories, talents, occupations, trials, successes, and so forth is an easy next step in your family history efforts. FamilySearch has an area called "Gallery" that is a central repository for documents, stories, photos, and even audio recordings. As you collect these types of information, be sure to upload them and link them to your ancestors. By doing so, you can also then, easily share these items with family members. "Gathering" also involves some "research", though I prefer to call this fun, because there are so many records online now. FamilySearch makes this process easier with their "Record Hints" feature. Research is not the same as that done by your parents or grandparents. For more help in gathering and preserving your photos, slides, movies, etc, CLICK HERE. For more ideas about getting started in "research", such as finding census records, etc, CLICK HERE.

CONNECTING with our ancestors comes naturally as we discover and gather more information about them. Feelings deepen towards them as we better understand them and their contributions to your heritage.

Keeping this concept of "Discover, Gather, Connect" in mind will help guide you and your family in getting started with family history.