5 Resources for Learning About Your Family History


This blog post is written by Lisa Louise Cooke, producer and host of the Genealogy Gems podcast.

There’s one thing we all have in common. We all have a family history. Have you looked into yours? The genealogical journey not only illuminates your family’s past, but also sheds light on who you are, and how you fit into history.

Genealogy Video

Perhaps you are only familiar with who your grandparents were. Or maybe you’re lucky and a great aunt handed down her genealogical research spelling out the births, deaths and marriages of centuries of your ancestors. Regardless of how much you already know, there is much more to discover! Perhaps you have an ancestor who fought in the civil war, lived through the great San Francisco earthquake, or patiently and successfully tilled hundreds of acres on their homestead.

Twenty years ago, the average person doing genealogical research was over the age of 65, and retired. Back then genealogy required travelling to libraries and archives, and hours of scrolling through microfilm. The good news is that today genealogy is not just a retirement sport thanks to technology. The Internet makes it possible to access library and archive card catalogs and many of the records themselves anytime from any location. Why not spend a lunch hour, or an evening poking around and seeing what you can find?

Here are 5 resources for learning more about your family history:

  1. Family History: Genealogy Made Easy: Take a listen to my free podcast series which is available in iTunes and at In the podcast I’ll walk you through the research process in a fun and easy to follow way. Then graduate to my Genealogy Gems Podcast where I’ll share the latest tips and tricks for climbing your family tree.
  2. This will be your first stop when you’re ready to dig for records. Why? Because the website is absolutely free to use! Sign up for a free account, then click Search and enter the name of one of your grandparents. Remember, genealogy is about starting with yourself and working backwards.
  3. When you’ve exhausted the free records at FamilySearch you’ll want to move on to Ancestry, the biggest genealogy subscription website out there. Save a few dollars on getting started by heaing to Google and search for Ancestry Free Trial.
  4. FindMyPast: While this is the go-to subscription website for those with British ancestry, FindMyPast has been adding a lot of records from the U.S. as well. Head to their Getting Started Guide page to brush up on the best way to get the most out of the site.
  5. Genealogy Gems Content by Topic__:__ When you need help, I have hundreds of articles on my website that address specific areas of genealogy research. Ready to tackle the census? Want to get the scoop on your family in old newspapers? Head to and select the topic you need from the Content by Topic drop down menu. While you’re there, you can sign up for my free weekly newsletter and have the latest article and podcast episodes delivered to you each week.

Even if you’re not interested in doing research, you probably have at least a few old family photo albums lying around gathering dust. One of my favorite ways to breathe new life into old photos is to turn them into short, shareable family history videos with Animoto. Here’s an example of one of the videos I created in just a few minutes. It tells the story of my husband’s great grandfather and grandfather’s emigration from England to Canada in 1912 through old photos, newspaper articles and postcards.

As you can see, Animoto made it possible to share this compelling story  in a short, shareable video that got the family talking!

Family history videos are fun to share on Facebook, and great conversation starters! And videos are the perfect way to fire up the family to attend a summer reunion, or to share the reunion after the event. In my next blog post, I’ll share more specific ideas for reunions and a video example as well, so stay tuned!