After many hours of searching and finding names of my ancestors, I have to consider myself an amateur genealogist. I think that there is a special excitement that comes over me when I learn about my family members who have gone before. Many studies have shown that learning about our ancestors gives us a greater sense of identity and heritage. Especially in the United States, it becomes easy to lose the diversity that we pass down generation to generation. My experience has been the following:
- Your parents and grandparents have interesting stories to share. I would have never learned about my great uncle's story if it weren't for asking them about their aunts and uncles. He was an excellent accordion player, and he brought his accordion with him overseas during World War II. He used the accordion as a pillow in dangerous grounds, and at the end of the war, he returned with his accordion in one piece. I learned why my one grandmother always makes Danish cookies and why the other makes Polish sausage. I see where my family comes from and I see their traits in me.
- It is easy to learn more. Census records, birth certificates, marriage licenses, land deeds, and so on all carry information that will allow you to trace back your family lines, and they are all accessible online. These sources may also tell you interesting tidbits about details of their lives, like their occupation and immigration year. Some draft registrations will tell you the weight, height, hair, and eye color of your ancestors. I learned how I connect back to Wales, Denmark, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, England, and Africa through these types of records. One cool find was an obituary from the early 1900s that described my third great grandfather as a barber and a Baptist preacher.
- You might actually meet your long-distant cousin. I have had several experiences with this on these sites, and with DNA tests, it becomes almost likely that connections will be made.
Here is a free site to start working on now.
This website is also great, though it costs money. It does have nifty things like DNA tests that can show you where you are from.