Regina Lewis
AOL Online Advisor

Studies indicate that more than 60 percent of Americans are interested in tracing their roots, but the price tag of anywhere between $30 to more than $100 an hour to hire an accredited genealogist can be prohibitive. Millions are turning to the Internet for help.

Can the Internet really help me?
Absolutely! Online genealogy is one of the fastest growing activities on the Internet because it is empowering so many people to find information that used to take years to compile. There are more than one billion records posted online. Each day, more and more information is taken from microfilm and paper records and digitized online.

Whatever your reason for tracing your family history—a child's school paper, a genetic disease, a death in the family, pure curiosity—if you don't know a lot about computers, it's a great activity to try with a young person who may know more about computers than you do. You'll both learn something along the way!

From uncovering lost relatives to making life-saving discoveries, the success stories are amazing!

How do I get started?
It starts offline. Gather as much information as you have about your family: names, places, and dates (even if you have to estimate). A lot of online search tools allow estimations. For example, you'll type in a birth date, and it will ask you if that's plus or minus a year or two.

Next, decide what you want to learn about your family. It's easiest to begin by selecting a specific ancestor. Try to make it someone born before 1900. Then work backwards. For instance, start with when and where he or she died. From there you can trace marriage(s), then births. All of this gets plugged into a family history model, and eventually you build a tree.


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