Skip to Main Content

History 14F: What's Your History: Introduction to What's Your History?

This guide was prepared to lead you to specific items for your What's Your History? class.

Strategies for getting started

In your FYC class, What's Your History?, you will be researching your own genealogical history and using that research to connect to an historical event.  In this linked Library class, we will direct you to resources which will enable you to discover keys to your family background. At the same time, we will lead you to various historical reference items that may help you to tie your family to moments in history

To begin, there are various types of genealogical records to help you with your research. Here is a list of several that could be very helpful.

1) Family Sources

A great place to begin your research is within your own home..  Some possible sources: correspondence, photos, diaries, Bibles, naturalization paperwork, family heirlooms. Let family members know that you are doing genealogical research and they may give you some important family history. You might think of interviewing one of the older members of your family. Also check social media for long-lost cousins.

2) Census Records

Another area to check early in your research would be the U.S. Federal Census.  The census is taken every 10 years and began in 1790.  The 1890 census, unfortunately, was largely destroyed. Because of privacy concerns, the latest census you can access is 1940.

3) Church or Synagogue Records

Often you will find records of baptisms, marriages and deaths. You might also find cemetery records, school records, meeting notes, adoption records and directories.

4) Court Records

Items to look for:  orders/decrees, judgments, case files, criminal proceedings, naturalizations and divorce petitions.

5) Death Records

Death certificate, obituaries, funeral notices, wills, pension records.

6) Historical Newspapers

Many life events are published in local newspapers.  Hofstra has access to the New York Times from September 18, 1851 to three years prior to the current year, the Brooklyn Eagle from 1841 to 1955 and the Times of London from 1785 to 2011. Additionally, when you are ready to spend time doing your family research, you can create a free 30-day account to Genealogy/Bank. This website offers historical newspapers, obituaries, marriage and military service records.




Interviewing a Relative. Some sample questions

Some examples of interesting questions to ask your relative about themselves and others:

* Ask the relative their full name, birth date and place of birth?

  What were the names of your mother's parents?

  When and where were they born?  Where did they live?

  What were the names of your father's parents?

  When and where were they born?  Where did they live?

* Were they named for another relative or famous person?

* If the relative was born in a different country and moved to the present country, have them tell about how and why the family moved?

* Ask about siblings of the relative? What are their full names, birth dates and where they were born? If any have passed away, what did they die of?

* What type of education did the relative have growing up?

    What other relatives did you have contact with growing up?

   What do you remember about your grandparents?

   When and where were they born?  Where did they live?

* What types of jobs did the relative have over the years, any require special training?

* During World War II, Korean War or Vietnam War, was the relative directly or indirectly involved?

* Who was the oldest family member the relative knew? What was their relationship in the family? Was there anything special or interesting about them?

* Does the relative have family keepsakes or heirlooms (furniture, jewelry, glasses, books, etc) that can be viewed? (NOTE: bring a camera to take photos, if possible.

* What collection of photos does the relative have that they would be willing to share?

When interviewing an individual, make them comfortable; explain why you are gathering the information. One very good opening comment would be to point out how wonderful it might have been if such an interview had been done with their great grandmother; wouldn’t that be a treasure now?

As you are interviewing, write now some notes to their responses, but also have a tape recorder running. Then, you have every word.

Remember to offer to share with the relative the family history you have gathered. There is a very rich source of stories, photos and remembrances to be gathered and saved for the upcoming generations.

Hofstra University

This site is compliant with the W3C-WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
HOFSTRA UNIVERSITY Hempstead, NY 11549-1000 (516) 463-6600 © 2000-2009 Hofstra University