Exploring your family history, or genealogy, is often a fascinating trip through time. At other times it's a frustrating experience. The journey to your roots requires a lot of time and patience.
Talk with your relatives and long-time family friends about your family history. This may save you some legwork, because these folks often have valuable information about your family. And you may find that someone else in your family has already done some genealogical research.
Start with your own history and work backwards. For example, record the names of your spouse, children, or grandchildren, and any members of their families. Next, record the names of your parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and so on, exploring backwards generation by generation. This is more efficient than picking someone who shares your last name and working forward.
One way to begin your research is by looking up an ancestor's obituary. If you don't know the death date, check the cemetery records at the State Historical Society of Iowa library. Once you know the date you can then locate the newspaper in which an obituary may have appeared. The State Historical Society of Iowa has a large collection of newspapers on microfilm.
And remember, if you find yourself up against a wall or down a dead-end road, ask a State Historical Society of Iowa librarian or archivist to help you. They can offer suggestions on how to get you going again, such as referring you to our collection of "how-to" books on genealogical research.
The State Historical Society of Iowa has many tools available for you to use in your search through family history. Many of these records are available in the State Historical Society's library and archives.
Census records can help you locate families. Beginning with the 1850 census, all members of households are listed by name. Other useful information may include state or county of birth, relation to the head if household, and age at the last birthday.
The State Historical Society has many newspapers from across Iowa on microfilm. Newspapers are an excellent source for births, marriages, obituaries, and, anniversaries -especially 25th and 50th. The national news they contain is often useful, as are the editorials, church and school news. You can borrow these newspapers on microfilm through interlibrary loan.