DNA tests are a great way to jumpstart tracing your family history, which can typically be a challenging and time-consuming process. Companies like Ancestry, 23andMe and National Geographic aim to help you to learn more about yourself with simple at-home test kits that can reveal everything from your ethnicity to specific genetic traits. Most recently, we were able to try out Ancestry’s DNA Kit, which features new upgrades such as improved ethnicity estimates and a section called DNA Matches, which allows you to compare your results with those who get similar DNA results.
But if you’re interested in learning more about the history of your ancestors, a DNA test is only the beginning. Now that you have a better understanding of where you come from, individual research can be a great tool for connecting actual people and historical events to the genetic information that DNA kits provide. You may have learned about relatives you didn’t know existed, which means there are that many more opportunities to discover the histories that have contributed to who you are today. All this makes for a great opportunity to start your own genealogy project.
We’ve compiled a list of helpful products when it comes to the resources, research and organization that can be helpful in tracing your history. While it’s usually not an easy process, learning more about yourself can definitely be an exciting and fulfilling journey.
1. Ancestry Genealogy Membership (starting at $19.99/month; ancestry.com)
With over 20 billion records, Ancestry’s database (ancestry.com) is a great place to start building out your family tree. The genealogy service is basically a dynamic family tree — the more information you find and add to it, the more you’ll be able to discover about potential relatives, who they were and where they came from.
2. Canon PowerShot Digital Camera ($154.95; amazon.com)
If you’re not confident in the quality of your phone camera, investing in a digital camera like the Canon PowerShot ELPH 180 Digital Camera ($154.95; amazon.com) can be helpful when traveling to historical sites where you’ll want to document your travels.
3. Brother Mobile Color Scanner ($94.99; amazon.com)
When you’re looking through old records with a ton of detail, you’re going to thank yourself for bringing a premium portable scanner along.
4. Fire HD 8 Tablet ($79.99; amazon.com)
When tracking down historical records, bring along a tablet as opposed to a backpack full of books. The Fire HD 8 Tablet ($49.99; amazon.com) is a great, relatively inexpensive option if you don’t already own one.
5. Digital Voice Recorder ($33.99; amazon.com)
Speaking with family members can be a great way to learn firsthand about histories and relatives you never knew. This digital voice recorder ($33.99; amazon.com) can support up to 100 hours of recording on a single charge, making it convenient for any longer interviews you might conduct.
6. Toshiba Portable External Hard Drive ($49.99; amazon.com)
Once you’ve compiled a lot of important scans and files, an external hard drive is a must-have. This sleek and simple option from Toshiba ($49.99; amazon.com) has a 4.5-star rating and over 5,160 reviews.
7. “Our Family Tree: A History of Our Family” ($9.33; amazon.com)
Record your findings in this leather-bound, hardcover book ($9.33; amazon.com) that will enable you to share the origins of your family, photographs and memorable events with future generations.
8. “The Book of Me” ($13.41; amazon.com)
Begin creating your own history for future family members to discover with The Book of Me ($13.41; amazon.com). The book’s guided questions help you to start unraveling everything from past memories to hopes for the future.
9. “For All Time: A Complete Guide to Writing Your Family History” by Charles Kempthorne ($27.70; amazon.com)
If you’re interested in not only discovering but also documenting your family history, “For All Time: A Complete Guide to Writing Your Family History” ($27.70; amazon.com) might be a great resource. Whether you’re planning on writing a short essay or an entire biography, this book walks you through helpful literary techniques when it comes to writing about your family.
10. TreeSeek Genealogy Fan Wall Chart ($15.95; amazon.com)
Track the names of family members and relatives with this genealogy wall chart ($15.95; amazon.com). Made of high-quality parchment paper, it’s elegant enough to frame and display as a unique, personal piece of home decor.
11. “The Family Tree Problem Solver” by Marsha Hoffman Rising ($23.74; amazon.com)
If you’ve hit a brick wall with your research, “The Family Tree Problem Solver” by Marsha Hoffman Rising ($23.74; amazon.com) offers solutions to common problems faced in genealogy research.
When collecting images or other important documents, you’ll want to make sure they’re being stored in a safe and organized space. Many people enjoy using sheet protectors ($15.99; amazon.com) and heavy duty binders ($16.49; amazon.com) to ensure papers and photos stay in good shape.
Another popular method of organization involves color-coordinated folders ($7.99; amazon.com) and index tabs ($9.99; amazon.com). Different colors are a great way to distinguish between different family lines.