While it’s true that technology has made the world feel like a global village, there are still many things we don’t know about our own family. Many of us do not know where our ancestors are from and are curious to find out.
Recently, genealogy has become a popular hobby. Many people in independent living communities in Houston and around the country have begun to research their family trees and have come up with fascinating results, for example they may find they have famous relatives.
Follow these steps to start your genealogy project:
- Make a list of relatives, especially the older family members, and call to interview them on family history. Many immigrant families americanized their names when they came to the United States through Ellis Island, so it is important to check as many variations of the name as possible. Ask about military records, places of birth and death, and political offices held. Jot down as much information as you have on each family member.
- Consider traveling to some of the places where your family lived when they first settled in the United States. The local town hall or church may have old records which were never computerized.
- Join a genealogy site. As a member, you will have access to records in their database. Start plugging in some of the data you collected in the previous steps. The database contains documents such as birth records, wedding records, death certificates, military records, immigration records, census information, and others. Some sites are free to use, and others charge a fee. Some to consider are:
- Take a simple DNA test with ancestry.com, and they will send you back a pie chart with your ethnic background by region. Additionally, you will have access to other people in the ancestry.com database who share DNA with you and are distant relatives – you can contact these members through the messaging option on the site and compare notes.
- You can then link these results to your family tree on the site, and any research your newly-found distant relatives have done is now part of your family tree as well.
Things to consider:
- Some of your elderly family members may not have clear memories of dates, names or places. Take down their information and use as many sources as you have available.
- Check alternate spellings when you use online databases, particularly for any records that go back a few generations. It is possible that census-takers wrote out the names wrong, or that the information was incorrectly recorded in the database.
- It is possible that not all your ancestors were proper, upright model citizens. You may find a pirate or a rebel in your family tree. And if that happens: “If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make him dance!” George Bernard Shaw