Social Question

partyparty's avatar

Have you researched your family tree?

Asked by partyparty (9157points) March 20th, 2010

A friend of mine has started researching her family tree, and finds it fascinating.
Have you ever attempted to find out who your ancestors were? How did you research this? Did you already know grandparents/great grandparents? Did you find out anything interesting. Any famous people you are related to?
Sorry to ask so many questions, but I am interested in doing this myself.

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43 Answers

talljasperman's avatar for canadians

other sites can be found on the web… like census records ect.

I found out that my ancestry is linked to the formation of Canada, France and England

MacBean's avatar

My dad and gramma and I do genealogy. We get our info through census archives, genealogy newsgroups and forums, research libraries. We also do a fair amount of good old-fashioned legwork, visiting people and asking questions, and walking around cemeteries looking at headstones. We have computer programs to help organize it all. We’ve been doing it for about fifteen years or so now; I couldn’t say how we got started. It seems like it’s something we’ve just always done.

thriftymaid's avatar

No. My brother in law is into that and is doing extensive research.

laureth's avatar

I was lucky enough that one of my distant cousins (never met) was so interested in doing this that he wrote a book with the details, and published it on a small press for the relatives. It details the ancestors back to 1700s Scotland/Ireland on his side, and in the book he traced it down as far as my maternal grandfather (beyond which I can easily extrapolate to myself, heh). Interesting stuff, but nobody famous. Spinners, weavers, an obscure playwright, servants at Balmoral, itinerant harvesters, and the like.

jaytkay's avatar

Someone in the family had traced back to a Revolutionary War captain. I found him in the 1790’s census. Then I found a book, with his family name, which led back to a sea captain who owned part of Martha’s Vineyard in the late 1600s.

Oh. My. Gawd.
I just googled the soldier’s name and I am related to Sarah Palin. I am not kidding.

phillis's avatar

I dabbled in it, but when I came across the bodies hanging from it I didn’t feel so enthusiastic anymore. Moonshine stills, hangings (that was literal, by the way) and the KKK? Give me a paper sack to cover my head. I’ll cut the eyeholes myself.

gailcalled's avatar

Yes and as I find more family, they do more research. Yesterday I found photos of the gravestones of my maternal grandmother’s parents. We are now legion and it is getting overwhelming.

One more generation and Kevin Bacon will show up, I am sure

Jack79's avatar

My dad was always interested in that, and he had an old uncle that knew our family tree several generations back. I know my dad’s side back to the 17th c, but not my mum’s much.

partyparty's avatar

@MacBean Wow that is really interesting. Do you know of any good websites?
@laureth How lovely for you have something you can read whenever you want, and learn about your ancestors.
@jaytkay Sarah Palin… do I congratulate you or offer commiserations??

partyparty's avatar

Thanks for your answers. Can anyone tell me the best way to get started? Do I just draw a list of what I know and take it from there?

Jack79's avatar

@partyparty I think that’s a good start. Then try to find the closest living relative to the branch (or rather root) you want to expand, and take it from there. Say you know who your great-grandmother is. Go to your great aunt, and ask her to tell you who that person’s parents and grandparents were. Or ask a cousin from that side of the family. The older the better :)

Just_Justine's avatar

A friend in Scotland did it for me as a favour. I was shocked to hear I was related in some way to Prince Charles, no idea how, I also had four Scottish kings as grandfathers. Apparently. Didn’t help me much, I am still poor and a nothing. He stored all the stuff, I really must read through it one day, I was at that time a bit boggled by all the info he was sending through. Maybe he even made mistakes I don’t know. Or maybe he was mad and made it all up.

partyparty's avatar

@Just_Justine Many thanks (your majesty) LOLL for such interesting stuff.

Just_Justine's avatar

@partyparty I know hysterical innit !!!!!oh well, maybe someone will remember me and leave me a bit?

partyparty's avatar

@Just_Justine Why not knock on Prince Charles door and invite yourself to one of his soirees… after all you are family! But perhaps Camilla wouldn’t let you in LOL

Trillian's avatar

I’d have thought that someone would have posted this by now, but since they haven’t, here it is. My oldest daughter and I are doing this together, logging on at the same time. It’s been enjoyable for both of us to share.

Just_Justine's avatar

@partyparty I can see I will never live this one down ha-ha!!

IBERnineD's avatar

My grandfather recently began researching the family tree, and my father for his side has a huge binder devoted to it. What have I learned?

On my mother’s side: I’m distantly related to Henry the VIII, we came over on the Mayflower, My relative who came over on the may flower (Robert [forgot his last name]) had two sons named Love and Wrestling. I also met Robert because I visited Plymouth Rock and there was someone playing him in their reenactment.

On my father’s side: One of my relatives was a firefighter during the Chicago fire in 1871, and there is an excellent story of why the Italian part of my family immigrated to America!

Just_Justine's avatar

@IBERnineD oh good a relative thank God :)

gailcalled's avatar

Addendum: I found one branch of my family via Fluther. Somewhere here I mentioned that Benjamin Finkel ( the first) founded an Umbrella Frame Co. in the Bronx. A guy from Texas who googled it sent me a PM. We are third cousins, once removed…but still….

elenuial's avatar

I have never done it myself, but family lore tells us that we’re a bastard line from the exiled first shogun of Japan, Minamoto Yoritomo. Not kidding.

DominicX's avatar

Only to a certain point. It becomes harder to research because go back a couple generations and you’re in Russia for both of my parents’ families. Though I did recently find out that I have Jewish Czech relatives; I never knew that, I always assumed that there were no Jews in my family, but there were. I found that interesting. :)

I have been to Russia a few times (I have plenty of relatives who live there) and going there would probably help to trace it, but we just haven’t really tried much.

escapedone7's avatar

Only one line, through my mother’s mother’s family, and only got so far.

YoH's avatar

I started researching out of curiosity from the stories I’d heard as a child.I’ve gone back as far as the early 1700s, when my ancestors traded a hunting knife to the Miami Indians for land along the Wabash River. I still have family in the area. I visited the cemeteries and had to clear brush and weeds away to get to headstones.I was fascinated and was able to get a lot of information first hand. As a child I loved stories and as an adult I’ve been able to find some of the facts behind those stories. I encourage anyone wanting a hobby,to consider the world of ancestry. I also encourage people to talk and tell stories to family members, so it all gets passed along.

Arisztid's avatar

@jaytkay You have my sincerest condolences.

Tracing my family is bloody nigh impossible because it is chock full of Rromani Gypsies… literally. My people did not keep written records, mostly were not born in hospitals, not recorded in court documents (in most nations), so, unless we are in Gadje record, we are not recorded. I know that I am of Vlax Rromani and Kaldershi Rromani heritage, my parents name, an idea of a couple grandparents, but no farther than that. Hardly geneological.

If I could find my Vlax ancestor’s names (the Vlax were enslaved for 500 years) as they would have been on the slave dockets in Romania, I might be able to trace it further but it was even more difficult to trace Romanian slave dockets than American slave dockets and slave names were discarded when slavery was abolished in the 1850s.

¼ of my lineage is white so we did some work on my white grandfather’s side and got back into the 1200s but that was stolen in a move. Basically, all I remember of him was his lineage went back from Romania (where my parents were born) back to Poland where my Gadje family was in service to the Polish King in some sort of warrior status.

I hope whoever stole that box with these documents dies a horrible death because it included my grandfather’s lineage and what my father was able to tell me about my Rromani heritage. Basically, the oral recounting of my people was cut off a the knees with that theft.

So, that is about as far as I have gotten.

shego's avatar

I started doing geneology when o was in 3rd grade, with my mother. I learned that I am related to Woodrow Wilson the 28th President of the U.S. I also have traced my mothers line back to England. But other than that, there’s nothing interesting that I have really found.

Arisztid's avatar

Err, whenever I said “we” in the above post, I was referring to myself and my father, not the royal “we” or me with a mouse in my pocket.”

Trillian's avatar

@Arisztid We are not amused!~

Berserker's avatar

Most of my ancestors were either farmers or sailors, so it’s hard to pick out anything specific, but then, I’ve done no real exhaustive research on the matter. Mighta been a coupla artisans, maybe someone got beheaded by the guillotine or something.

one track mind sorry

Arisztid's avatar

@Trillian But the mice in my pocket are hooting and hollering with laughter! :D

Trillian's avatar

@Arisztid, the mice in your pocket are probably high from the fumes!

DrasticDreamer's avatar

I was able to find a lot out after my paternal grandfather died. My dad didn’t know him that well as he was growing up, because he left his family, so I never met him. Upon my grandpa’s death, however, a daughter of his from another marriage sent my dad his obituary, which contained his real name. The reason I never knew my grandpa’s real name is because he was “adopted” (sold) by/to a pedophile and after that, all traces of him disappeared. He had many brothers and sisters, all of whom were also given up for adoption. Through the years, every single one of them managed to reunite – except my grandpa.

Anyway, long story short: After I obtained his real name, I started doing extensive searches on the internet for his name. I probably went through thousands and I was about to give up when, I kid you not, the very last person that I clicked on was looking for a man by the name of my grandpa. I emailed her and said, “I think you’re looking for my grandpa, but I know him as ________”. Anyway, the account that this person created was years old, but it turned out that she was the daughter of one of my grandpa’s sisters. Her mother was old and didn’t have many years left. Upon learning what happened to the last of the children, she said she could die happy.

Aside from that, the relative that I contacted turned out to be a genealogist who sent me a thick packet of family history. I’m related to Daniel Boone, a famous Revolutionary War Patriot who founded a courthouse in North Carolina, Russel Stover (the candy guy), Scottish settlers, Irish settlers, German settlers, Native American blood, Danish, the list goes on. :)

I was extremely lucky to learn all of this, and much of the history goes back to the 1600s in the US.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

I don’t have much on my mom’s family, but my dad’s family lived in a village of 1200 in Romania from 1745 to 1929, and there is a village historian. I have a family that I do research on for a friend that’s fascinating. An interesting way to really learn US history.

loser's avatar

I did! And I discovered the coolest thing! About four generations back, my ancestors must have been aliens from some other planet!

YARNLADY's avatar

I received an ancestry search program for a gift, so I started looking into it. I found that a cousin on each of my mother’s and my father’s side had done extensive research and shared it with me, so I didn’t have to do much work. I found it very boring.

partyparty's avatar

@IBERnineD Oh so you are related to @Just_Justine . Say hello to one of your relatives.

@gailcalled Wow that’s really good. Keep on researching, and thanks for your answer.

@Jack79 You are so fortunate to know your ancestors.

@Arisztid How very sad to have those documents stolen. But at least you know where your roots are, thanks

partyparty's avatar

@DominicX Wow that seems to very interesting. Think you should delve further there

@YoH Yes if information was passed through the generations, it would most certainly help finding our ancestors, thanks

@DrasticDreamer Wow .. you are so fortunate to have found so much about your ancestors.

@YARNLADY So don’t you find your ‘roots’ interesting? Knowing what you were, and are now?

YARNLADY's avatar

@partyparty—The knowing part is OK (mostly ordinary people), but the searching part is boring.

Jack79's avatar

While tidying up my dad’s basement a few weeks ago I discovered an old book, which must have been written in the early 1900s, and starts something like “Tom had 3 sons and 2 daughters, the oldest was Michael, born 1823. Michael had 7 children, including Stephen, born 1849…etc” all the way to my grandfather (who probably wrote it). Most of it was written using a quill, and my dad had added his own entry sometime in the 70s with a biro. So I took a pen and wrote my daughter’s name at the end. I must just remind her to update it in half a century or so.

partyparty's avatar

@Jack79 Wow you are so very fortunate to have something like that. I am sure the entries will continue for many generations to come. Thanks for sharing your story.

gailcalled's avatar

I am the family genealogist, perforce, since I am the oldest (excluding my mother with no memory). I got a tremendous leg-up from the autobios that both my grandfathers had writtten. They each started out in 1) Serey, Lithuania and 2) Yarushenko, Ukraine. The inclusion of dates, places, harbors, names of ships, photos ( I had to pay someone to translate “Finkelelio Viesbutis” from a sign on a building. It means “Finkel’s Inn or Tavern”) enabled me to start somewhere.

Another really interesting source is the printed lists of various censuses, starting in 1890, I think. After printing the salient pages, I was able to read the data with a magnifying glass. is a useful site as is

meagan's avatar

Absolutely. I can look up my family to the early 1800’s. Its more depressing than anything, but its nice to know that these people existed.

partyparty's avatar

@meagan Wow you are so fortunate. As you say it’s nice to know about your family, good or bad! Thanks

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