Recently I've picked up genealogy as a hobby-- tracing my family tree-- and have found it very rewarding. And although it is very easy to spend lots of money on genealogical research, I've managed to dig up a lot of information while spending almost no money (so far!) So I figured I'd share some tips about how I've done it and you can too.
But first, I thought I'd list some reasons why genealogy is such a fun and fulfilling hobby:
- Brings you together with family: As I've started to dig into genealogy, nearly all of my relatives are interested and excited about hearing what I'm finding-- and about sharing with me what they know about our ancestry. Listening to them talk about the family folklore and tell stories about relatives who died before I was born is fascinating; and it's very cool to watch their reactions as I'm able to share new details that I've discovered about the childhoods of people they knew and loved in old age. Plus, there are a few people-- especially my dad and my maternal grandmother-- who are especially excited about the process and want to work on it with me, and it's been a great way to feel closer to them. (Although there's something a little funny about being able to say to my dad, "Everyone that you're related to, I'm related to also; but half the people I'm related to aren't related to you at all!")
- Makes history and heritage come alive: I'm half Irish and half Eastern European Jewish. Learning about my relatives who were born abroad-- even those who I haven't figured out precisely when and from where they came-- gives me a very vivid connection to the lives people led in those areas a century or two ago. And tracing their lives and their children's lives-- their neighborhoods, families, occupations, educational status, and more-- brings to life the experiences of new immigrants in this country. I keep stumbling across pieces of information that illuminate bits of history I studied in school (in ways that are much more interesting than history books!)
- The fun and challenge of solving puzzles: Genealogy can actually be quite intellectually challenging and fascinating just from an objective stance; it's about guessing and searching and putting together the pieces, making intuitive leaps and then connecting the dots to back them up. So when you add in that solving the puzzles leads to insight about your family's past and your heritage, it's quite an addictive hobby for someone like me.