Archive for December, 2012

We all have stories that have been handed down to us about our origins. We may have been told that we had an ancestor who was part Indian, or one who came on the Mayflower, or fought in the Revolutionary War. Maybe Grandpa told you that his family came from came from Ireland during the Potato Famine, or maybe you that you come through a certain Scottish Clan. Sometimes a famous family line is mentioned such as a Royal line, or you have been told that your great-great grandmother was an Indian Princess. My husband’s  family has a legend that they are related to Germany’s infamous von Hindenburg, [not all stories are happy ones]. When we hear of a famous ancestor we immediately want to prove the connection [or disprove it] and we are tempted try to jump back in time, skipping over ancestors in the process. This is generally not the best way to search for your ancestors. My grandpa would say we are ”putting the cart before the horse.”

Genealogy begins with you. You should begin by putting together what you know about yourself and then you should get that information into a format that makes it possible to share what you have with others. No one will be in a better position to record your information than you are in right now. Recording your own information, and writing your own history, also gives you the opportunity to tell your story in the way you want it told.

After you get yourself recorded and documented you can begin to move back in time from the known to the unknown. You need to stop at each ancestor and  collect what you can. Sometimes there is not much information available. When this happens you will need to research the other people in their lives, like siblings or neighbors. Neighbors are often kin, but if they turn out not to be related, your research will still be helpful in showing  you know what life was like for your ancestor. By solving the little puzzles along the way, and gathering the histories, you can better understand who your ancestors really were.

As you record what you know about yourself, your parents, and grandparents, if you were lucky enough to know them, make certain to give a physical description and a bit about their health. A  WWI draft registration card for my husband’s grandfather stated that he had light blue eyes. We now know where the light blue eyes came from that my husband, son, and several grandchildren have, and more importantly, they know.  I like to record the cause of death, which can help track patterns of illnesses that may be genetically linked. This becomes more important as new helps for genetic problems become available.

Remember to reach out to family members who are still living and glean what you can from them. My biggest helps recently have been the distant cousins that I have met online. These distant relatives have had stories and photos that I had never seen. If you gather with your family during the upcoming Holidays you can start the ball rolling by telling your remembrances. You will soon find other people chiming in. You may learn some bits of information that you hadn’t known before. Make sure you pass on what you know to those who come after you by recording either on paper or video what you have learn.

At Thanksgiving I like to tell  my grandchildren about their first ancestors who came to this country, and what they sacrificed to get here. I had ancestors at the first Thanksgiving, but I also had other ancestors who came at different times and from different countries. Their sacrifices were no less real and no less important.

As you move back in time and history, you may find out that you are related to Abraham Lincoln, or came through Spanish Royalty, but you will also find that the “regular” people in your lineage are just as interesting as the “famous” ones.

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