Finding Your Stories

A little girl, Margaret Strickler from Skidmore, Missouri, reads a book.
"Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose." - Zora Neale Hurston.

If you want to find your own family and community stories, you can use many of the same sources and techniques I'm using to uncover the stories told here. I've pulled together a few ideas to help you start or continue your own story quest.

Plan a Path

Plan the next steps you'll take. Creating a strategy and keeping it in mind as you search will give you a solid place to start, and it will help to keep you on track as you go.

Lesson: Plan your newspaper search

Worksheet: Plan your search worksheet


Here's the fun part. Use the key terms and variations you identified in step one to test out the resources you identified in step two.

Lesson: Newspaper Searching

Lesson: City Directories

Revisit & Monitor

Capture what you learn through each search. Note any new spellings, abbreviations, nicknames, and other clues you discover. You may also want to keep a log of the places you've searched and the searches you've performed so you can retrace your steps and revisit them for new updates.

Lesson: Saved and Repeated Searches

Margaret Strickler and Katherine Gray, ca. 1915, with a book
Why learn how to find your own stories?
Tracking your family history, the story of a community, or the life of an individual or group can help you connect your own life more clearly to the past. The act of seeking your subject in documents and other resources helps you understand them and connect with the wider world around them.

When we understand context, we better understand the past and better understand ourselves and our own times. We can use that knowledge to make better choices for the future.