As a child who frequently moved from place to place, I can easily describe myself as generally disconnected from my family. For the most part, I did not have the opportunity to truly know my great grandparents or extended family members. As an adult, I began to feel an overwhelming desire to develop a connection to my past. This personal journey turned out to be a much more emotionally-charged experience than I expected or planned for.
It all started with a box.
My grandfather passed away in September of 2008. Upon his death, I inherited several personal items, including a seemingly average box of photographs. Upon further inspection, I discovered that the photographs told a story … a story of people I had never met. The more I analyzed these photographs, the more information I wanted to know regarding the lives of the people in them. Desiring to solve the mystery, I made a phone call to the one living relative I knew would have the answers – my maternal grandmother.
As I described each photograph to her, she explained in limited detail who these people were. Desiring to know more, I turned first to Google and then to Ancestry.com. I took the names my grandmother had given me and plugged each one into the Google search engine. Much to my surprise, I was lucky enough to locate an individual who had already traced out a large part of my family tree. I transferred this information to Ancestry.com and took advantage of their free services to organize my data.
For absolutely no fee, Ancestry.com offers an extremely helpful family tree maker. This program is easy to use and guides you through the entire process. To create your family tree, you simply enter what you know. The basic required information is your first and last name, your birth date and place, and those of your parents. Ancestry.com utilizes the facts you enter, searching through billions of historical records, photographs, and family trees. Whenever missing information is found, the program alerts you to this and directs you to the newfound information. This process allows you to organize your ancestral timeline, images, and information regarding your family history in a safe, shareable, and easily accessible location.
Additionally, with a paid subscription, you gain the ability to access billions of historical records, including the following: birth, marriage, and death records; U.S. census records; immigration and emigration records; military collection; confederate applications for presidential pardons; U.S. Civil War soldiers records and profiles; historic land ownership and reference atlases; African American collections; and Jewish family history.
For me, the process of uncovering my family history has been one of great joy and accomplishment. Creating a family tree is the perfect excuse to reconnect with distant family members, as nothing develops family cohesion like a common goal and a shared learning experience. If this is something you are interested in, I offer a few simple words of wisdom: proceed with an open mind, prepare to be shocked, and embrace the past – it may just offer a solution for the problem you face today.