Find your family tree! The advertisements make it sound so easy, but what does finding your family’s roots really entail, and why would you want to know? The commercials convey the representation of instant achievement - sign up, log in, and instantly know what village in Hungary your ancestors came from, or what year your family immigrated to America. The reality of an ancestral search could take a very long time, especially if you do not know what you are looking for. A variety of reasons exist to do a genealogy search. A person may have a curiosity to learn about the history of their ancestors and heritage, a wish to join an organization such as The Daughters or Sons of the American Revolution, or may want to discover the history of their residence or family home. With the vast number of websites and services available, how do you know where to start and what documentation best serves your needs?
Firstly, determine what kind of information you need. Newspaper articles, obituaries, and even personal journals are wonderful additions to a personal family tree, and may offer a closer glimpse into the everyday life of family. Organizations, however, such as The DAR and SAR require more official records. Next, you need to gather the information that you know firsthand. Your information should be kept well organized and your findings well documented. Now it’s time to start working backward.
When using websites such as Ancestry.com, it is not always a wise idea to trust pre-made family trees. These can make excellent search tools, but the information on them must be verified by other, more reliable sources, as they can sometime include inaccurate information. Even more issues arise when one or more persons in the same area share a name during a similar time period. Caution must be used to ensure that the “John Anderson” you are tracing is in fact the “John Anderson” to whom you are related. Local property searches in county courthouses can come in very handy, providing valuable information such as the name of a spouse or a child. You also need to be aware of possible nicknames associated with your relative. An individual named Margaret, for instance, may go by the name Marge, Peg, or Peggy. Middle names should also be taken into consideration. A middle name or initial can help you differentiate between individuals with the same or similar names, but it is also important to note that some people choose to go by their middle name. Spelling of a name can also get complicated. Often the spelling of an individual’s name would depend on who was physically writing the document.
Considering the vast amount of resources to sift through as well as the wide variety of paths to choose from, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, or to even get stuck on a certain generation. Luckily, there are services, such as Sean Cassidy and Associates, P.C. that can help narrow down the path and close the gap. If you need assistance as you embark on this exciting journey into the past, please contact us today!