I highly recommend the television show “Who do you think you are?” if you’re not hooked already – you can find it on the TLC channel. The most recent season ended but you can view past episodes on their web site.
Did you see the episode about Cindy Crawford’s 41st great-grandfather? Charlemagne. Experts say when you go back 40 generations; you’re talking about a trillion people. There’s a good chance you and I might be related!
Adding to my television time, I recently got caught up in the PBS series “Finding your Roots” by hosted by renowned historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Check out a Ted Talk by A.J. Jacobs “The World’s Largest Family Reunion… and we’re all invited.” As Mr. Jacobs has brought to light – his connections to the actors Daniel Radcliffe, Gwyneth Paltrow, Olivia Wilde, and Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George H.W. Bush. You begin to see there is truth in the statement six degrees of separation.
Usually at the start of an episode of “Who do you think you are?” the featured star goes to a professional researcher to get started and often encourages their guest to use the database Ancestry.com to create a family tree, look at census, birth, or death records.
You can search this database for free at your library with Ancestry.com Library Edition. Yes, you have the option to subscribe on your own to Ancestry.com as an individual for $20 up $45 a month. More search options are definitely available on the paid subscriptions.
Nevertheless, you are able to access an abundance of information for free via the library.
As you begin your search there are a couple tips to always keep in mind.
- There are entire tutorials and books devoted to old-fashioned handwriting, sometimes a test to the best of eyes. Contemplate writing out on a piece of paper all the different variations of the first and last name of your ancestor as you begin typing in your search. Education levels and different accents all played a role in how a person’s name was entered into official document rolls.
- Geography is a big factor in trying to track down your ancestor. In the United States, and abroad, borders have changed tremendously over the years. Go to cyndislist.com to help you narrow down your search process. A big factor is your research is to be open-minded about where your ancestor lived. Be certain to check out historical maps and atlases if you can. These paper copies can provide you with a wealth of information. Don’t assume every piece of data is searchable online.
Look for groups to join in the area, the Westchester Genealogical Society provides you with a great opportunity towards being able to share, collaborate, and learn from others who are interested in finding out the same thing as you, more branches on their family trees!