In last night’s season premier of Who Do You Think You Are? actress Gwyneth Paltrow searched for the true stories of her ancestors. Passenger lists helped her prove a family line from Barbados. Censuses and other records revealed the many challenges her great-grandmother faced. And Jewish family history records helped her make a surprising and meaningful spiritual connection to her family history.

Here are 3 steps to help you discover the true stories of your ancestors.

Step 1: Plot the basic facts

Create a simple timeline with basic information about your ancestor, starting off with their birth record. Add immigration years from passenger lists. Search for more details in family trees and ask your family what they know. Save your discoveries in your family tree so they’re all easily accessible in one place.

Step 2: Fill in the details

Search for marriage information using clues from other records. No year listed? Try searching for a marriage one or two years before a couple’s oldest child was born. Add information from death records and obituaries for all family members too, as a death in the family likely had a huge impact on survivors’ lives.

Step 3: Search locally

See if you can find local histories that provide insight into the people and the area. Contact a historical society near your ancestor’s home to learn about events and trends that may have triggered a move or a change of jobs or schools. And review local newspapers which may have reported on events directly related to your family.

Have you got any tips on discovering the true stories of your ancestors? Leave a comment!

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