2 In Crafting Memories/ Spotlight On

Ancestry Research: Starting My Journey

photo of me typing on a Mac laptop on a white comforter

R E S E A R C H I N G  has always been something I’ve been good. I enjoyed delving through books and articles trying to find the best evidence for whatever assignment I had for college or during my graduate studies. It was only natural that my research tendencies influenced my need to delve into my family history and finally figure out where our ancestors came from.

This project had been brewing in me since high school really. I’ve always been curious about where my family came from & knew that we as a family didn’t have a lot of information to work with. My parents knew some things about our ancestors, but I was really working from scratch when I began my ancestry research journey two months ago.

So why start now?

My jump into ancestry research began accidentally. I was at my grandmother’s house with my mom (as I’ve done all summer on my days off as we take care of my grandmother) and my mom was trying to remember where her grandmother was buried. So I decided to look it up on ancestry.com*. Naturally, the death certificate/record I found could only be accessed with a membership. So, I bit the bullet and signed up for their 14-day free trial with the intention to delete my account that day after getting the information my mother needed. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. I jumped right into an intensive two-week research project that I’m continuing even now.

Researching My Ancestry

My biggest advice to anyone starting out in family research is to ask questions, take advantage of all the free trails you can, and make sure you have time to dedicate to the project!

Ask Questions!

I didn’t have much when I started my family research, but I had enough. I started with my name and dates, my parents names and dates and my grandparents names and dates. I also knew my great-grandparents names. From there I found so much more!

Every website I’ve read about family research states to start by asking questions. I couldn’t agree more! When researching your family history, having answers to questions like grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. names and birth/death dates is so helpful! But that doesn’t mean you might not find things without that information. It just means that you could potentially find more and take less time to do so.

This information is also super helpful if you find information on other members’ trees. Sometimes the information inputted into other members’  family trees might not be accurate. I’ve found other ancestry.com members’ trees that had my grandmother as being born a year after she really was born. So knowing some of the information beforehand can really help with confirming accuracy when researching your family’s history.

Then again, I only started with having my grandparents names and birth/death dates. I also knew some of their siblings’ names and their parents’ (my great-grandparents) names. From there I was able to find information from Censuses that filled in some of the blanks (like my grandfather’s siblings on both sides! I didn’t even know my one grandfather even had siblings!).

(Need help asking those questions? Check this site out that gives some advice on how to interview elderly relatives. )

Which brings me to my second piece of advice: taking advantage of free trails & having the time for this project.

Make sure you have the time & utilize free trials!

Right now I’m only working part time at 20 hours a week. So I have another 20+ hours a week to dedicate to researching which came in hand when I signed up for ancestry.com’s 14-day-free trial.

I spent so much of my free time those first 14 days to get as much research as I could from the free trail from ancestry.com. I was able to go back almost 5 generations on my maternal great-grandmother’s side of the family. I’ve also been able to go back 3 or 4 generations with the rest of my family as well just from using ancestry.com’s 14-day-free trial along with some secondary research at familysearch.org that had some images and some databases that you either have to pay more for with ancestry.com or that ancestry.com doesn’t have.

I spent hours pouring over records, searching names and trying to make connections. I went back to my mom, my paternal grandmother, and my dad with questions to confirm details or learn more. Of course this might have been done better if I asked some of those questions beforehand, but I started my research journey (like I mentioned above) unexpectedly.

What I learned over those 14 days of the free trial was invaluable. This is why, I highly recommend that you really use as much as you can from any free trial you start with family research. You can find so much for free in those two weeks to make the free trial completely worth it in my opinion. Then you can continue your research with other free research tools such as FamilySearch.org.

I am holding a pen over a notebook with 'family research' written on the page and an old photograph of my ancestors

Where I’m At Now & Where I’m Going

Right now, I’m at a point in my research where I need to branch out from Ancestry.com and my immediate family. I’m currently making plans to visit cemeteries, historical societies and other family members to ask some more questions.

I’ve reached some road blocks with my father’s side of the family since they are of Russian and Polish descent which has proven harder to research versus my Irish mother’s side of the family. Although, I’ve also run into some road blocks on her side of the family as well, particularly with my grandmother’s father’s family.

Once I’ve gathered more information, I’ll probably return to FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com to see if I can find anything else.

Of course some of the way in the future plans include actually going to Ireland and Scotland to research family history. I’d love to go to Poland and Russia as well, but those countries might be a bit harder to visit and research in, especially with the language barrier on my side. If anyone has any tips for researching your Polish and Russian ancestry, I welcome all and any advice you can give!


My final goal, is to have all of this information complied into a book to give to my parents (and then anyone else in the family who’d like to have one). I have everything that I’ve found saved on Ancestry.com as well as on my computer in files for each person. Of course, family research can almost be never-ending, but I’m going to do my best to compile as much as I can. I don’t know if it’s the librarian in me or not, but this project has been so important to me and I have this driving need to find out and then preserve my family’s history. I cannot wait to see the final product of this research in years to come!

I’m hoping to continue to chronicle my research journey on here as well as impart any tips on researching that I can. I’m thinking of doing a post on how to use Ancestry.com, as well a post on some Ancestry.com features one might not know about, as well as maybe a post on how I’ve been organizing my family research on my computer. Let me know if you’re interested in reading about any of those topics 🙂

Ancestry research can be frustrating, time consuming and expensive, but it can also be so fulfilling and enriching. If you have the drive and passion, I cannot recommend starting this journey enough. It has been such a fulfilling process for me so far. I get so excited every time I have the opportunity to share with other family members what I’ve found so far. I hope that you find that enrichment and joy as well if you ever begin this journey!

Sending love always,


Nicole Lynn 

*This is not a sponsored post for ancestry.com. They just happened to be the tool I used at the beginning of my research journey. I’ve equally used FamilySearch.org as well. 

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    September 17, 2017 at 10:31 PM

    Super cool Nicole. I found a decent amount of stuff over the past few months, such as census reports and things which help familiarize myself with the details my mom may be missing. Unfortunately for me I don’t have any grandparents and never got the chance to ask my only living grandmother in my lifetime about my dad’s family. And my mom probably retained more about his side of the family then he does. We don’t talk to his brother either, so unless I feel like reaching out to him to find out anything. I’m stuck there. My mom remembers A LOT about her family, however we also hadn’t talked to her brother in years and years and he had most of the physical evidence of our family. He passed away just weeks ago and there is no way in getting any of our family heirlooms seeing as we did not talk to him nor his wife. I don’t have a lot to go on but have always loved learning about this as well. I just don’t know what to do with the information I collect. I want to just find out a bit more even about my great grandparents, for my mom’s family that just involves some travel to upstate PA and hopefully some research there. Good luck with all your searches as well! I’m glad you’re getting the chance to do this!

    • Reply
      October 20, 2017 at 3:54 PM

      I’m so sorry you didn’t have the opportunity the get some more information about your great grandparents. You might be able to find out from your parents names and your grandparents names. Census’ really help to figure out who was living with whom and where. If you every want any help, let me know! I really hope you get a chance to learn more about your family. It’s been such a fulfilling thing for me to do. Thank you for your well wishes!!!

    Leave a Reply