How the Story of Our Ancestors Can Empower Us Today
Today, genealogical research provides greater insight into the lives of our ancestors. Learning about your family history also offers a fascinating way to understand many aspects of your background, your family traditions, and your community. It may help motivate you to pursue an exciting new interest or undertake a challenging project.
By exploring your roots, you’ll also appreciate more fully how the distant past influences the present era. Many aspects of the daily life of a great-great-grandparent may inspire you (or even disturb you). By making an effort to uncover this information, you’ll have a better opportunity to evaluate your own life in a new way. For example, sometimes genealogical research provides useful information about inherited health conditions of interest to modern people, too.
How to Research Your Family Tree
Many people don’t know where to start when they begin genealogical research. Most experts recommend listing as many of your immediate family members as you can recall. If possible, start with your parents, then add the names of grandparents and great-grandparents. List the birth dates of everyone, and death dates for deceased family members. This information provides a framework for expanding your research further and further into the past.
Fortunately, many public libraries offer extensive online records and archives. Ask a librarian for assistance accessing these materials. Sometimes these collections include public records of interest to genealogists. For example, the 1850 census is just one of several censuses that can illuminate the lives of our ancestors. You may also find it useful to consult immigration records, ship passenger manifestos, deeds, wills, and lists of graves at various cemeteries. Newspaper and magazine articles in library collections often offer useful information about people and their activities decades ago.
In addition to these resources, a variety of other specialized types of records or archived collections may assist your search efforts. For example, did one (or more) of your ancestors serve in the military? Draft registration cards filled out long ago often furnish useful information about ancestors. Service records and military cemetery records may prove helpful, too. Additionally, people whose ancestors include slaves or indentured servants frequently discover useful genealogical information in specialized collections dealing with plantation records and slavery auctions.
Today, many people also discover value in consulting oral histories. Indigenous peoples frequently maintain rich oral history traditions. This information may prove helpful in learning about ancestors. Public libraries increasingly furnish multi-media collections which may include accounts by people who fought in wars, lived through the Great Depression, or participated in specific industries, like cinema. When you’ve identified an ancestor by name, all these resources may prove very useful in learning more about that person’s daily life and times.
High Tech Genealogical Research and Beyond
Today, taking a DNA test also furnishes a way to learn more about your ancestry. While this step may involve sacrificing privacy, it might also yield important clues about your line of descent. Sometimes DNA sampling connects branches of a family tree to identifiable locales around the world. This testing may also indicate very specific information about inherited genes and genetic conditions that could put you at greater risk of certain cancers and other diseases.
Many people see the past as some unrelatable concept with no relevance to their lives today. Nothing could be further from the truth. The lives of our ancestors are earlier chapters of an ongoing story that continues to be written today and will keep being written for many years to come.