Tracing family history can offer an interesting and enlightening look at one's genealogy. Family history research may be undertaken for reasons of personal interest as well as for medical, financial and legal reasons. The best way to research family history is to begin with oneself and trace the family tree backward from there. It is easier, after all, to begin with known facts.
For instance, it is possible to begin with one's parents, grandparents and other known senior relatives, and question them for information about the family name and the family history known to them. The genealogy may be explored along the paternal line, along the maternal line or along both lines, taking into account the various kinsfolk from either sides. On the whole though, it may be easier to research family history through the paternal line rather than the maternal line, given that in most cultures it has been a common practice for a woman to take her husband's surname.
It is important to note down the oral testimony from family members and look through any available family history records to see if it can be corroborated. Historically, in many Christian households, it was common to record the family tree in the family Bible. Documents like birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, religious papers, diaries, wills, letters and photograph albums can also be immensely helpful in tracing family history. In addition, to research family history, documents like newspaper entries, tax records, electoral records, census records, military service records, land records, immigration records, ship passenger lists, naturalization records and other archival evidence may also prove to be useful. Keeping a careful record of the searches made, the references used and the results obtained can make make further research easier.
It can also help to search the family name using a search engine, sifting through the results. It may be possible to stumble upon distant branches of the family in this manner. Joining local genealogical societies and connecting with people interested in genealogy can be beneficial as they may offer search tips, advice and assistance.
Another way to research family history is by utilizing various online genealogical directories, some of which may require a subscription to access the website database. Online genealogical sites like the International Genealogical Index (IGI), found on the website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, contain quite comprehensive archival information gathered from parish registers, municipal offices and other sources, as well as as family histories and family trees submitted by users from around the world. It is a good idea to look through family history records of people with the same surname; there may be a chance of having a common ancestor, and it will save the necessity of going over already covered ground.