GREAT REASONS TO TRACE YOUR FAMILY HISTORY
Everyone has special reasons for the efforts they make to learn more about their family history. Do any of the reasons below resonate with you?
- You can learn about an ancestor. For some, family was never discussed while growing up. Others are trying to make connections because they never knew a parent or grandparent.
- You will be able to share your history with your children. Many have made a commitment to find, preserve and share family history with future generations because they feel a moral obligation to do so.
- You may love discovery; it’s a fun thing to do. You may have begun researching because you love the hunt, and you are curious about what you may dig up.
- You can understand more about yourself. Do you suspect that some of the qualities that make you who are can be attributed to an ancestor? Do you wonder which decisions they made concerning education, where to live, or employment had the most effect on your life? Do family members say that you remind them of an ancestor?
- You will learn about the places where your ancestors lived. It is wonderful to be able to pass on the traditions that your ancestors brought from their native land.
- You can know about the challenges your ancestors faced. Did you grow up hearing family stories about the war or the depression that make you want to know more about how your ancestor was impacted? Delving into the past helps you understand more about how they handled struggles.
- You may be looking for living relatives. Some researchers are looking to connect with living descendants to discover what they can share about ancestors. They invite the newly discovered to family reunions and share stories and photographs with each other.
There are some great benefits to tracing your family tree. You might find that, even if you just have a small curiosity now, the more you look into it the more curious and interested you’ll get in your family’s history. You may also find information on causes of death and illnesses, some of which may be passed genetically on to you. The task of looking up information on your family used to be daunting and time consuming, but with the help of the Internet, finding ancestors is easier than ever. With more and more public records being digitalised every day, you no longer have to scour dig through paper archives or hire a dedicated genealogist to find out information about your family’s past.
One of the easiest ways to start researching your family history is by calling up living relatives and seeing what they remember. Some may even have records and photographs from long-gone ancestors. Not only is this a great way to fill in some of the initial gaps in your tree, but you may also be able to hear and record stories that would have been otherwise lost to time. Starting from what you know, you can start filling in your family tree with immediate relatives. Gather official documents proving births, baptisms, marriages, and deaths as soon as possible. You may not feel the need to prove that you’re related to your immediate relatives, but documentation becomes increasingly more and more important as you go back in time.
Major world events and immigration portals can be helpful in tracking down documentation for older family members. There is a large database of documents to help prove that individuals fought in World War II. These documents also include biographical information that would help colour your family tree with details.
Knowing the historical context of your family’s past can also be important for tracing it back in time. If your family travelled from Ireland and lived in New York City during the depression, they may have been treated with scorn from the native population. Jews before World War II also suffered a similar fate. You may be able to find out if the way they were treated inspired your family to move to a different part of the country, leading to different marriages and altering your family tree forever.
Once you start researching your family tree, you should be documenting what you find. Not only can you make a literal family tree graph, showing the different branches of your family, you can also make a book with certificates, photos, and other documents. Making electronic copies of all of these documents will not only help you organize them, but it can also preserve older documents that may be falling apart. When talking to living relatives, write down or otherwise record their stories. What makes a family tree truly interesting isn’t the dates and the places – it’s the stories behind them. You don’t know how many interesting stories you may discover.
While researching you may run into several obstacles, such as older documentation featuring misspelled names or ancestors becoming widowed and then remarrying and changing their names. These may make it hard to follow your family tree in a smooth and easy way, but don’t get discouraged. With the internet, uncovering your family’s past is easier than ever, and obstacles that used to take years to overcome now only take months, weeks, or even a few hours!
Is family history research worth spending hours trawling the records? What exactly will you find? Has your family got a story to tell?
If you’ve never done any genealogy research before, the chances are you’ve thought about it. Every family has intriguing tales – long-lost uncles who sailed off to the briny; fallen soldier heroes; romantic elopements; and occasional darker tales of bigamy, divorce or crime. Many people would love to know more, but feel put off by the thought of hours trawling through record offices and spending hundreds of pounds subscribing to websites or paying professional researchers.
Family history can take over your life – the quest to find great-uncle Charlie on the census might keep you up till the small hours – but these days, as more and more records are placed online, you can also trace your ancestors relatively cheaply and easily, dabbling in genealogical research during your lunch hour.
- What might you uncover?
Basic birth, marriage and death facts are relatively simple to acquire (although sometimes missing ancestors can drive you mad), and once you have these, it’s time to find out more about individuals.
Some admit that lists of names and dates leave them cold, and it’s the stories behind the facts that most are interested in. Tracking down a relative in Old Bailey court reports or a pauper relative in workhouse records; getting my hands grandfather’s army service record (and discovering that he was demoted for ‘laziness’!).
These sources bring all the census records and BMD certificates to life, and you can find many such on the internet. And there’s a huge array of interesting collections: old newspapers; criminal records and court reports; workhouse records; unusual treasures stowed away in local archives, but easy to discover when searching their online catalogues.
Most people trace their trees linearly, following direct ancestors through the male line. But often, branching out, for example finding out more about your grandparents’ siblings or in-laws can uncover equally remarkable stories. You might even decide to start investigating both your paternal and maternal lines at once.
It might sound strange, but family history can bring you closer to living relatives. Genealogy isn’t a finite project. Thanks to the constant release of records online, on-going digitisation work by record offices all over the UK, and a few research trips here and there, new discoveries are being made all the time.
If you’re on the brink of beginning your family tree, then take the plunge! You never know what you might discover and pass on to your own descendants!
Gone are the days of the nobleman’s personal scribe keeping his master’s lineage on an illuminated sheet of vellum in some dusty manorial library. Now everyone’s at it! Genealogy is hands-down the number one online hobby today, but why do so many people enjoy tracing their ancestors? How does it benefit them? Below are seven reasons why this time-consuming hobby is so rewarding.
- Brings Families Together
Speaking with older members of your family, and with relatives, is something you will need to do early on in your ancestral research. Your grandmother’s sister, for example, may have information about your great grandparents that your own grandmother (if still alive) failed to recollect, or they may have important documents, such as birth certificates or old diaries. These visits, telephone calls and emails help bring together families and relatives that have lost touch.
Even though many people do not have the time, interest or persistence to trace their family tree, the chances are they will be quite thrilled that someone else is doing it. You will come to be seen as the family’s (and extended family’s) very own historian!
- Enlarge Your Family Circle
You may, in your genealogical research, discover living members of your family, or close relatives, that you never knew about. Half-sisters, half-brothers, siblings separated at birth, adopted children – you might find any or all of these in your research. Thus not only can you bring your family closer together, you can also enlarge it.
- Family History
Those tracing their family history will often become absorbed in the life of their ancestors. This is where genealogy becomes more than dates and names – it becomes a history of your family. Some day you may choose to augment your family tree with a book of your family’s history. This can be a greatly rewarding experience for you, and a great treasure to those who will come after and continue that history.
- Meet Others
The life of the family-tree maker today involves online communities, family history societies and travelling to numerous places across the country to find elusive parish records. The sense of community can be very great, especially when you find those researching the line of a common ancestor – and you will be surprised how quickly that can happen. Genealogy is not a lonely past-time anymore.
As you research the dates and dwellings of your ancestors, you will become more and more familiar with the events in history, local and external, that touched their lives, and more intimate with the geography of the lands in which they walked, talked and toiled. You may even want to learn more about history or pursue a certain area of family history such as medieval studies. Learning about our past, and our country, gives us a sense of identity, and it enriches our lives.
- Mutual Benefits
Helping others can be very beneficial. Often those with certain resources, or who live near an archived collection you need to access, will offer to look up information for others. In return, others may look up things for them – records that they would otherwise have had to spend a lot of time and/or money to access or visit. In this way everyone helps each other grow their tree. This help is usually free, but some will do more work for you if you pay them a small fee.
Another way you can give back to current and future genealogists is to sign up to contribute your time toward one of the many volunteer indexing or transcription projects.
- Find Inheritances
OK, some people do genealogical research in order to find family fortunes. Well, you never know!
The long and short of it is that family history enriches the researcher, bonds families and creates a lasting legacy. If you’ve not started your family tree yet, then start today – and, sooner than you think, you’ll be experiencing all these benefits firsthand.