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Lorena Smalley

The Library and Archives Canada website has a wealth of information on Genealogy and writing your family history.  We recently found some great articles on how to write your family history.  We thought we would pull together all the information you need to get you started!   

We hope you are enjoying our series on Writing Your Family History…up next, here are some tips on Choosing A Strategy!


Writing Your Family History – Part 2 – Choose A Strategy

For many people, researching Family History means tracing members of a family, showing the relationships among them, recording their family stories, collecting their treasured photos and documents, and sharing all that with other family members.

Genealogy, on the other hand, is often considered to be a more structured activity that incorporates standard ways of recording information, rigorous methods for assessing evidence, an academic component providing formal learning, and professional accreditation. Genealogists attend conferences; publish books and articles; design and maintain family history websites. Some also contribute to other disciplines such as medicine, genetics and history.

Specialized terms are used in family history and genealogy. Consult the glossary to find out what they mean.

Begin your research with yourself and work backwards. Doing this helps to avoid the possibility of documenting people who are not your ancestors.

Many folks work on whatever branch of their family they find easiest and, when they hit a brick wall, they switch to another branch. Some people focus on the paternal (father’s) side of a family which is often easier because the last name usually does not vary when traced back in time. The maternal (mother’s) side of a family is more difficult because the maiden names of women who took their husband’s surnames are not often known. Some researchers decide to follow a family surname and its variants in a One-Name Study. Others may concentrate on a particular ethnicity that occurs in their family.

Ten-generations ancestry chart of Sylvie Tremblay – Private collection – Govt of Canada website


If you document blood relatives plus spouses, extend your research one step further to find the names of the parents and siblings of the spouse. This information can be useful when collaborating with other researchers to establish links between families.

Recording information about extended families means documenting persons who are part of your family through:

  • marriage only (in-laws)
  • adoption, fostering or guardianship (formal or informal)
  • married or unmarried unions (including same-sex partnerships);
  • “honorary” family membership (such as “Aunt Jessie” who was a close family friend).

Most important: choose a strategy that suits your interest and brings satisfaction.


CLICK HERE to visit the LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA website to read more about Tracing Ancestors and Descendants, One Name Studies and Ethic Research

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