Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Genealogy Bug


As I mentioned recently, I've been bitten by the genealogy bug and have spent the last five or six years researching and logging over 6000 of ancestors and their statistics into my family file. Several of you asked for tips on how to get started. There is such a wealth of information available online today, formerly only accessible from county courthouses and libraries.

If I could choose just one site, it would have to be Ancestry. Thousands of searchable databases are readily available; census, old newspapers, social security death records, state records and thousands of personal family genealogical files, just to name a few. It is a little pricey, but compared to traveling to specific locations to research, it is a great deal. You can purchase an annual subscription, which is the most economical, or you can pay for access for just three months. Some other great sites are Find a Grave, Rootsweb, (Ancestry's free site) and the Bureau of Land Management. Also, many states now have searchable archive databases online.

Don't be afraid to get into Rootsweb and some of the other sites and leave stats for the ancestors you are searching for on their bulletin boards. Many times other distant cousins are looking for the same family. I connected with several unknown cousins this way and plugged into a wealth of family info and the priceless pleasure of their friendship.

Another valuable and worthwhile avenue is The National Archives. Military service records and pension files are available to purchase. I paid around $40 for WT's great-great grandfather's complete Civil War file. I was absolutely thrilled when they mailed a packet of photo copies of over 80 pages; a treasure trove of info
and well worth the investment.

WT has participated in his family surname DNA project, through Family Tree DNA. After requesting a packet, swab the inside of your cheek and mail it in. When the testing is complete, you are
linked with others with matching DNA . It's another wonderful way to trace your lineage and connect with other descendants.

I use Family Tree Maker genealogy software available to purchase from Ancestry. It has lots of great features, simple to install and very user friendly. So, hey hey, there you have it, my bloggy friends. Hope this gives you a little helpful info if you're interested in researching and documenting your roots. Let me warn you, it's very addictive, but persistence does pay off. Happy hunting!

By the way, the above photo is the oldest in my personal family collection. It is a tin type, self portrait of my great-great-great grandfather Joseph Lorenzo Dow Hanna, county surveyor for Howard County, Indiana in the 1860's. On the back of the tin type, is written in pencil, "executed by J. Hanna, artist". I come from a long line of photographers, so it's definitely in my blood. My camera is broken and I'm about to jump out of my skin without it!

47 comments:

  1. Ah! I wish I had the courage to check my roots past Cleve'... I honestly don't want to know what we were in to. What is your family like willow?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Fascinating subject Willow, as you already know I'm a history buff. I've traced (with the help of a cousin) my paternal side of the family back to the year 1567, with first hand evidence in the form of royal decrees and baptismal records. There is also an indirect source which dates the settlement of this part of the family in Northern Spain in the 13th Century. And we all have ancestors that go this way back and beyond. I get carried away with this long comment but I'm passionate about geneology. We have to meet for coffee somewhere Willow...mmm let's say Iowa or Illinois somewhere close to both ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I signed up for the free 3 day trial at Ancestry last year. I was able to find public records for my great grandparents just by looking up their names. It was cool. I can see how you could get addicted to researching your family history. I wish I had been old enough to be smart enough to take notes or record my grandparents.

    ReplyDelete
  4. geneology is amazing. i have always had an active interest in my family history and have worked on it in great detail over the last few year.

    Being in Australia helps , being a new country compared to many, a lot of stuff is avaialble- its when we have to hike back to britan that it starts to get scary !!

    take care

    love your blog
    Lisa xx

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow,what a nice thing to do,hey?
    But it's hard work though.I would love to do it too and will because it's really interesting.Myself,I have italian and spanish roots for sure but if you go futher back,I might got gyspy ones too and who knows?I've heard about Ancestry before but never checked it well.
    Have a nice day
    :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks so much for this information, Willow.

    P.S. Love the old photo!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I think I am afraid what nefarious characters I might find in the branches of the family tree. I prefer to think that I was just magically delivered to the tree.

    By white doves.

    ReplyDelete
  8. What a very informative post and such an amazing photograph!

    It's good to be back in the blogosphere, thanks for your kind words.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Very good info-- I've never explored history on either side of the family beyond just what has been "passed down." I can see how it could be absorbing. Second acornmoon on the photograph.

    ReplyDelete
  10. This was really helpful Willow.I have been thinking of doing this for my children to have but just haven't gotten down to it!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hello Willow,

    It seems I have a LOT of reading to catch up with! Genealogy certainly seems to be a popular pastime right now. Having old photographs is a great thing, allowing us to "know" that person and connect with them more readily. 6000 antecedents is staggering!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I've been doing research off and on for the last 10 years. It's actually fascinating and addictive work. The more you find the harder you work. I've managed to trace back to 1695.

    A couple of websites I've used other than the ones you've listed are FamilySearch.org and USGenWeb.org.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm going to send this post link to my sister-in-law...the family historian. Very helpful thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Are you doing it on one of those huge sheets of paper with all the flowing arrows?

    ReplyDelete
  15. What very clear blue eyes J. Hanna has!

    Ancestory.com..."and it all started with your first leaf!" :)

    ReplyDelete
  16. This is wonderful information. Inspiring! Thank you.

    I found tons of great information about my father's side of the family in the library at the Holocaust Museum. Not necessarily all good news, but I was able to get a very good sense not only of what my ancestors on that side did for a living, but also about the shtetl they lived in.

    All of them (except my grandparents) were killed and the shtetl was bulldozed, but before that, all was like Fiddler on the Roof for the Melikiers of Wyzygoredek, Poland. Very cool!!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Our daughter (12) seems to have caught this bug--we have no idea where she got it from. We've told her we're mutts from other countries and can't go past our grandparents but she doen't believe us!

    ReplyDelete
  18. How funny. I posted some family tintypes and cabinet cards today on my blog. Mom was very into geneaology and traced us back to the Mayflower and beyond actually to the Magna Carta. How do you spell that.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Something I dream of doing. I'm holding the Q-tip now, ready to swab! I think I'm exceptionally interested in being connected through DNA. But my roots are in Russia...might I be a Czarina???
    Wonderful, thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Thanks for the direction - I really want to know my clan's tartan - your photo made me want that !!
    But what if I'm the black sheep?

    ReplyDelete
  21. I was talking about this just the other day to one of my grooming clients, she said she was scouting out her family roots and found out that George Bush is a 5th cousin on her paternal side...she's devistated and trying to move forward...ha!

    Is this like opening a can of worms...?

    ReplyDelete
  22. So much advice, I'm going to bookmark this page!
    My Dad and I have come fairly far with some of our research, but we're stuck with our Irish great grandparents, and we still have no information about our Scottish ancestors...

    ReplyDelete
  23. Oh I would love to research my ancestors, and my husband's.

    Thank you for your advice.

    CJ xx

    ReplyDelete
  24. Hi Willow. I did go on Ancestry and left some stuff about my Dad. It's amazing! Just starting out on this. A lot of older research( my Mother's Mom was doing ) "disappeared" when she died. I have to start back at square one. I will surely give these other sites a look-see. Thanks much.

    ReplyDelete
  25. There is a mystery behind my last name. I dont know if it really is my last name. My father was murder before I was born and my mother skipped town when she found out she was pregnant.So if Rogers is my last name, like she says, then I have a whole family that never knew I was born. My mom has mental problems so all things she says are not true. Mystery Rogers!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Wow--what a fabulous portrait--how fortunate you have that, Willow! I, too, am the family genealogist. A number of years ago, I did the same thing, going back to my great, great, great great grandparents. I used Ancestry, too, as well as the Latter Day Saints and Ellis Island and a number of other sites. I had put a note asking if anyone knew of a certain name out on Ancestry's site, and never heard anything for months, and then, met someone who turned out NOT to be related, but we still correspond, in Australia, and then--finally, almost a year later, pay dirt--my second cousin in Scotland I never even knew existed--and he and I are now good friends. We skype all the time, and we have exchanged amazing information. Genealogy is definitely addictive. Now, I have Joe doing his family. He's hooked! Nice post and great information!

    ReplyDelete
  27. I am so lazy i just go to the Mormon church and let them do all the work for me- that is how we found Nancy and Abe- I mean we knew of our heritage we just didn't have it all diagramed as neatly as the Mormon's do it.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I find this kind of research fascinating!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Hi,

    I am under the weather today and stayed at home -- so I finally finished my ode to the letter "C" you assigned me.

    http://dlouisianat.blogspot.com/2009/02/cilly-letter-c.html

    I wasn't sure where to post this, so I just put it here. I hope you like it.

    Denese

    ReplyDelete
  30. Oh, that's great stuff Willow. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Willow,

    I agree Ancestry is a great site. I was able to gather a lot of information about my father's side of the family. I was able to see my grandfather's writing on his military registration for WWI.

    Sure hope your camera is fixed soon. I'm so glad I have more than one.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Don't tell anybody I said this (if anyone asks, it was some other bloke), but you can always get help at the library, too!

    ReplyDelete
  33. That DNA thing is tres cool. I had not heard of that. My family name is French Acadian and most of the Acadians were deported from Nova Scotia to Louisiana around 1755. (Willow, I'm sure you know of Longfellow's poem Evangeline) It would be interesting to find out if I have some Cajun cousins.

    ReplyDelete
  34. I am not a genealogy bug, but my father is, and I'm grateful for all his work tracing our roots. There's something good knowing my roots - be they heroes or scoundrels (and we have our share of both.)

    ReplyDelete
  35. Sometimes American friends express some envy at the depth of connection with the past, personal and historical, that Brits must experience constantly. But the tracing of American roots must be a fascinating process. Will you be posting any of your findings?

    ReplyDelete
  36. Excellent resources here. I am intrigued.

    ReplyDelete
  37. My searches for relatives in my family tree are sporadic. Once I came across a website a distant cousin had posted with pages of a family tree going back to the mid 1400s. My great-grandmother's family was a branch of that great tree.

    I have a copy of the will from my great-great-grandmother who died in 1917. It was interesting to piece together the names listed within with those on the family tree, complete with occupations. I may do a post one of these days on a distant relative, a famous author of her time, who knew Sir Walter Scott.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Thanks so much for your condolences regarding the kitty. Thanks also for your comment on my new profile pic -- that means a lot coming from you (I know how you feel about faces). (: )

    ReplyDelete
  39. Love the new header, Willow!

    Researching family history must be fascinating and addictive. I have never tried it - yet!

    I've just posted the letter 'G' you gave me a few days ago - thanks Willow!

    ReplyDelete
  40. I'll have to post some of my genealogical findings on another post sometime soon!

    ReplyDelete
  41. Genealogy has taken up many of my hours through the years. I started out pre-Roots, helping my mother -in- law do her research and that got me hooked, too. I like the stories and the whys of it. Why did they leave one place to go to another? How did they meet? I found several interesting wedding stories, including that one ancestor was a mail order bride. Good topic. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  42. Fabulous photo, Willow! Is the DNA project very expensive? It sounds neat! Imagine being the person working in the lab with all those swabs. There's an interesting storyline there for an enterprising author. (Not me - but for someone who is more scientific, perhaps?)

    Kat

    ReplyDelete
  43. Ah yes, ancestry! My folks always told me my relatives came on the Mayflower and I was embarassed by that until my Cousin tracked it down and proved it...although my line came down through an illegitimacy...which made it somehow more human and I was okay with it.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Ancestry.com is wonderful! My daughter at Ball State University had to become a member to do an assignment. I got totally hooked! It was facinating for my side of the family. However~ terrible trying to locate Sergio's side. He was born in Monterrey Mexico and Ancestory.com isn't so helpful with some countries (not their fault, I think the countries have a problem sharing information (or maybe does not keep good records).
    One interesting side note: I found it fascinating that my very racist grandfather had a great grandmother that was bi-racial! Appearently they changed her records when she moved with my great great grandfather to this prejudice little town that my Grandfather was brought up in. She would not have been accepted so it was kept a secret.
    Ha Ha! Now I know where I got my loving soulful side!

    ReplyDelete
  45. I love genealogy, I worked on mine years ago when I was younger and some family was alive to record their responses.
    My brother has gone further. We sometimes argue about names and dates, but thats all fun!
    In fact just yesterday he invited me to a family reunion up in Dalaware this summer. We have traced our roots back to England/Ireland & Scotland. fun stuff!

    ReplyDelete
  46. I am a genealogy addict. It's my THING. I will search people's trees for hours. I don't care if I get paid or not.

    Nice to find someone likeminded.

    ReplyDelete
  47. I found this site using [url=http://google.com]google.com[/url] And i want to thank you for your work. You have done really very good site. Great work, great site! Thank you!

    Sorry for offtopic

    ReplyDelete

Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)