Starting Your Family History Project

Family History Project Family History Project

Have you ever thought about organizing your family history so it is preserved and can be passed on to future generations? Or, creating a family tree to see all of your relatives and how you are all linked? This is genealogy. The search for, and documentation of, one's ancestors and family lineages. If you have been thinking about starting a genealogy project for a while, I hope that Italian Heritage Month will inspire you to get started. You'll find it's pretty easy to get going, a great way to bring your family closer, and exciting to discover more about yourself.

I had a conversation with Amy Kennelly who gave me some great tips on how to start a genealogy project and begin looking into your ancestry. She is an experienced family history researcher and has presented on a number of different topics related to it. Additionally, Amy is a longtime member of a number of groups such as the Western Reserve Historical Society Genealogy Committee and Geauga County Genealogy Society.

Amy advises to start by simply writing down what you know, get it out of your head and on paper. An ancestor or pedigree chart can help guide you and is a good way to organize the info. You can find one in the "Learning Center - First Steps" section on Basically, it begins with you and goes back several generations, to your parents, your parents' parents, and so on. Listed with the names of each family member are important dates, like birth and death.

Next, gather together all the papers and documents you or family members may have related to family history. This includes the legal documents - birth, death, wedding and baptismal certificates, naturalization papers, and passports. These documents will help you fill in some more details in the ancestor chart. Letters and family photographs can offer a lot of clues, too, and will help you with documenting a more complete story.

You can then use this basic info as clues to help you fill in the gaps and fill out your family tree. Many turn to for their search and Amy agrees that it is a great tool. But she also suggests personal guidance from an experienced researcher will save time and get you going in the right direction. The Research Library staff of the Western Reserve Historical Society is very knowledgeable and can offer hands on help with your project. Visit for hours and admission.

There are also a number of genealogy groups you can join to discuss your project and to get guidance from fellow members. A great local organization dedicated specifically to Italian genealogy is CIAO, Cleveland Italian Ancestry Organization, formerly a chapter of the now defunct POINT Italian genealogy group. CIAO always welcomes new members and they hold their meetings about once a month. The current president is Tom Cirincione and he can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

As you can see, starting your family history project is easy and there are many resources to help you. So no need to delay, download that ancestor chart and start filling it out today - buona fortuna!