I have been engaged in researching my ancestry (and that of my wife) since the late 1970s. I was inspired by the television series Roots.
I began with my mother's side thinking it would be the easiest for a beginner. Her family is mainly from the Cumberland, Maryland area with German, Irish and a tiny bit of French ancestry. With two exceptions, I have been able to trace all of her lines back to their European origins. About 15 years ago I began working on my father's side of the tree. His parents were from the tiny moutain top village of Priverno in the Latina (Lazio) region of Italy. Much to my amazement, I was able to trace many lines of my paternal lineage back to the 1500s. I am now trying to link that line to the Sicilian Brusca families which trace their origins back to the 1200s in Catalonia.
At the same time that I began my Italian research, I began working on my wife's lineage. After some digging I was able to learn that she is descended from royal lines and has many notable cousins - including her favorite writer, Jane Austen.
In addition, I am also researching the descendants of all of my ancestors and building a sizeable directory of cousins.