Need a hobby? Try genealogy.
Said to be second only to gardening, genealogy is the fastest growing hobby in North America.
I have been doing genealogy since I was 15 years old. I now consider it more an addiction than a hobby, but it is not a bad addiction to have. There is usually an event that gets you started. For me, it was the death of my grandma. She had been in an orphanage as a child, but I really never understood why, so I decided to find out.
Many people wonder how to begin. The best way to start is by writing down what you already know. Your full name, your birth date, and birth place. You can verify the information by getting a copy of your birth certificate from the county health department. Write down the names of you mother and father and their dates of birth, birth places. Add marriage information. You can verify this with a copy of their marriage license. In order to find and verify information, you must figure out the state and county in which a birth, marriage or death occurred. The county is where you can find the vital records. There are many websites that can provide clues or facts that you can later verify. One is the Browning Obituary Database. It can be found at http://browning.evpl.org/. This database is great! You can find relatives you may not have known existed. If you are looking for a relative, but you are not sure if that person is still alive, you may want to check out the Social Security Death Index at http://ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com/. There are likely many people with the same or similar names, so use more than one source to make sure you have the right person. You may find surprises along the way.
As you go back in time, the census records hold a wealth of information. Census information is only released 72 years after that census is taken. Generally, people are listed by household. Census records are by state, county and then by township. You may find out about relatives who died as children that you didn't know existed. You may find out that grandparents lived with their extended families.
Once you have found a little information, you can post queries or questions on various websites. Some sites are by county, some are by surname (last name), and some are by subject, like orphanages.
You can also check on military records. You many discover that one of your relatives fought in WWII, WWII or the Civil War; or that two brothers fought on opposite sides during that war.
As you look, don't be afraid to ask questions or post queries. Somebody out there may already know the answer or at least have some pieces to the puzzle. Most people who do genealogy are willing to share the information they find. The internet has made that easier.
Be careful not to give out too much information on people who are still living. Identity theft has become a large problem. Let me know how your search is going. Also feel free to send me questions if you get stuck.