One of those questions that I get asked all the time is if I'm Irish. Why? My red hair. For most of my life I honestly had no idea. My family (parents) did not really know our family history much beyond their parents. You can't really blame them, those generations had so many siblings that they had enough to keep track of.
Now that so many records are becoming public and digitized though, this kind of thing is much easier to keep track of--and to find! I have been working on and off for a few years on researching our family tree. It is obviously a long-term project since families go back in time and more and more records are always added to the great invention of the internet. In fact, you can even volunteer to help 'read' these records and transcribe them. It is called the World Archives Project and if you are good at reading handwriting and have some time to waste, I highly suggest you contribute to this project.
I worked on setting up everything my family 'knew' over the past couple of years and even digitized some old photos my father's parents sent my sister when she was doing a genealogy project for school. I have happily added these to my family tree.
This weekend I am planning on doing some more research on our family history. Here are tips I have for anybody who is getting involved in this:
- Ancestry.com is an AMAZING tool. I highly suggest checking it out, even if it is just for a 14-day trial. Warning: it is very addictive and you might not get much sleep while you investigate and build your family tree.
- Not all 'hints' are correct, the number one tip I have to give to make sure you are adding accurate items to your tree is to click on the suggested document and view it yourself! Do NOT just assume the information was transcribed and interpreted perfectly. Often the document does contain information about the person you are looking for, but many times it is in a different way than ancestry.com has interpreted it. I often end up manually inputting this kind of information in and then citing that suggested document on the tree. I'd say only about 1/3 of the time is the information accurate and complete for it to just be added in the 'review hint' section.
- Avoid adding from other members' family trees. They will be suggested to you, and often you will see your relatives working on similar trees. Or even a distant cousin (I've found a few of these--people researching siblings of the people I am researching, etc). These trees are great suggestions because they cite documents that are useful to you--so use those documents instead of the tree itself.
- If you are getting frustrated: stop. This is incredibly time-consuming project, with more added all the time. It is also a neverending project unless you were dropped off by aliens or something. Take a break. Do not get angry. Or switch to another person in the tree if you hit a dead end for now. When you do hit a dead end, call a relative! Sometimes they have some hints to pass along.
- Do not do a six-month subscription unless you are really dedicated. I usually pay for one month at a time right when I plan on working on it for a while, then make sure to cancel my subscription before I get charged again. These subscriptions are NOT a ripoff. You get access to SO many documents: social security indexes, census sheets, newspapers, military enlistment papers, etc. Wait to pay though until after you build your tree as much as you can on your own. Pay when you need to do real research.
- Convince a relative to help you. Two sets of eyes and brains are better than one!
- Don't keep it to yourself! Share with all your family and friends all the interesting stuff you learn. It's pretty darn neat!
- It is very easy to spread the tree 'wide' with siblings, but if you want to concentrate on your genealogy click on 'pedigree' instead. This puts it in a streamlined form of parents only.
I bet you've been waiting for my answer. I obviously have been spending quite a bit of time trying to figure out the answers to "Are you Irish?" and "Where'd you get your red hair?"
The answer is: I don't think I am Irish, I have Scottish ancestry instead.
Obviously, I haven't been able to get very far back on my tree. The good news is I do think I know where I got my red hair from. The bad news is, I don't know if that is the only place I got it.
I have been spending a great deal of time researching my mom's side of the family. I have managed to trace back a few members of my family past the U.S. borders and found some neat stuff:
- My mother's father's mother's father's father (my great great great grandfather?) came to the U.S. from Scotland to become a logger. He married a gal from Canada.
- My mother's mother's mother's mother's father's mother's father (my great great great great grandfather?) came to the U.S. from Scotland as well.
- My mother's father's father's mother's parents (my great great great grandparents?) went from England to Canada and their daughter came to the U.S.
- In the U.S., most of these relatives have been concentrated in the Michigan area and has history in New York and a few other states in the Northeast/near the Canada border.
So far, those are the only blood relatives I have found past the U.S. Many of my friends have always known their lineage or had more 'recent' ancestors come to the U.S., always making me wonder about my own family's history.
I am always researching more and have yet to figure out where my father's side came from. His last name sure pops up a lot here in the South, more than anywhere I've ever lived before. I'll make sure to share any more awesome discoveries I make about my ancestry and genetics with you. If you have ANY questions about the World Archives project or Ancestry.com, just let me know! I've been using Ancestry.com for quite a few years now and have quite the handle on it.