Our life experience here, in this moment, is so precious. Who we are now and will become is full of so much history. The wise words and knowledge spoken upon our lips, may have, at some point, been a distance memory spoken from a grandmother, or grandfather – who heard it from their mother – who heard it from their mother, and so forth.
Have you ever stared into an old black and white photo of a relative imagining what was going on for them? Wondered if their struggles, hopes and desires were similar to the thoughts you have today? How they overcame so much, with so much less than what we have offered to us today? Just what was their story and how did they get there?
This is you! Your ancestors have spoken and want so much to share with you their past – And how you became uniquely you.
How do you have that amazing drive and courage? How do you cook such delicious award winning dishes? How do you draw the finest of fine art that could be hung and sold for thousands in a gallery? How are you…You?
If you have ever considered wanting to know more about your family history, here are some ideas that you can do now to get started:
Start recording questions you want answered from your oldest living relative:
They are the closest link to your past that you can get. Go spend an afternoon asking for family names and what times were like for them. Typically, their grandparent’s name will give you a great leap into the past. Jot down as many names as they can give you. This will help in locating your relatives when doing a search.
Take the names gathered and start searching:
The Ancestry DNA kit is great for those serious searchers looking for more precise linkage to what there blood line is.
You can use awesome websites such as ancestry.com (more listed below) and pay a minimal membership fee depending on the level that you want to take it to. Ancestry.com also does DNA testing of your saliva (I am excitedly awaiting my results), for $99. Within 7 to 8 weeks they will pinpoint exactly what country or region your family originated from. Combine that with the information from your older relatives and you have a great start in digging into your past.
The old school way:
Another way to search is through the library of records in the city that most of your relatives were born in. Every city keeps a record of live births and deaths. Depending on the city though many slaves were sold off and were only accounted for in their slave masters property records (see below for a website specifically for African Americans). Talking with a Historian once you have a few names to search under will be of great help.
A few website recommendations:
Most people love and use Google because it gives you such a large database to search for places, names and can guide you to the perfect family history search engine tools. Google has a variety of other tools that you can utilize to help you such as, Google Maps and Google Earth. Both searches can help you locate ancestral addresses. Google Translate can help you translate text from other languages, and Google Books incorporates an online library of out-of-print resources that may contain local histories and compiled genealogies.
How cool would it be to have others (including researchers) share and provide helpful tips and clues to add to your growing family tree? Well that’s exactly what you can do on the RootsWeb website. Information can be updated or removed at any time and although the findings may not be 100% accurate, it truly increases your chances! Don’t know exactly where to start? You can browse their database that is full of over half a billion names with over 400,000 family trees!
A phenomenal website providing a unique slave database of research and education for those researching their African-American roots. Most records for slaves were kept by the slave owners and are generally the only clue most African Americans have in tracing their ancestry. AfriGeneas site allows for an ample forum to communicate with other users searching into their African American genealogy.
So what are you waiting for? This weekend go spend an afternoon drinking tea digging through old photos, reminiscing of old times past and learning new things about your family history. After all, in this circle of life, one day you will be the relative the family goes to, to find out more about where they came from. Or, maybe you will be the one in the photo, long gone, standing proud as your loved one stares and admires just who you were and where you came from.