Ancestry Blog » Site The official blog of Ancestry Sun, 19 Oct 2014 21:44:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Research in the Keystone State: New Pennsylvania Research Guide Fri, 17 Oct 2014 14:20:36 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> independence-hall

Independence Hall, Philadelphia. Photo by Amy Crow.

There is so much to explore in Pennsylvania, both in the state’s history and in our own family histories. I’ve been doing Pennsylvania research for a long, long time and I’m amazed at how there is always something new to discover. Did you know these five things:

  1. Pennsylvania was the first state to abolish slavery.
  2. Oil might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Pennsylvania, but the first successful oil well was dug in 1859 near Titusville. (The American Chemical Society has a booklet all about the early oil industry in Pennsylvania.)
  3. Philadelphia had the highest death toll of any U.S. city during the 1918 influenza pandemic. More than 11,000 people died there.
  4. Anthracite coal wasn’t used for fuel until 1808. Even then, it was only experimental.
  5. Yuengling, based in Pottsville, was established in 1829 and is the oldest brewery in the United States. Just think – you could be drinking the same beer as your ancestors!

If you have Pennsylvania ancestors – and lots of us do! – check out our new Pennsylvania State Research Guide, with a general history of the state, a timeline, and lots of resources for you to explore.

For those of you without Keystone State ancestors, it’s alright. Head over to the Learning Center where we have guides for almost every other state. (The series will be completed soon!)

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Family History 101: Tips for Interviewing Your Living Relatives Thu, 16 Oct 2014 14:42:21 +0000 Jessica Murray Read more]]> Sharing your family’s legacy is so important for strengthening family bonds and reliving traditions that will make memories for every generation. This Family History Month, take the time to sit down with your living relatives to record important family history and maybe you’ll make some new family history research discoveries.

To start, download our handy PDF here with interview questions you can use in your interviews.

Here are a few tips to make the interview experience easier.

1. Start with the Oldest Family Members (and Friends)

Our oldest generations have stories that you may have never heard and are the most likely to be lost if not captured now. Don’t wait on sharing some one-on-one time with your older relatives as you may not have many more opportunities to do so in the future.

Also, if your family is anything like mine, you have “grandmas” and “aunts” who you’re not actually related to, but they’re considered family. Don’t rule them out when capturing family history. They were often involved in stories or may share a different perspective that might bring more color to your family history.

2. Use Photos to Trigger Memories

Especially with your aging relatives, they may not recall the exact day, month or year so warm them up by sharing old family photographs and asking them to describe who they see, what memories they have of that person and what their life was like in those days. This approach is much softer than reading off a list of questions which may have them jumping around to different time periods in their lives and create frustration.

3. Go Off Topic

Don’t be afraid to let them go off topic. It’s these moments you might learn something new or hear their perspective which may be different from what you knew. And for that matter, if there are questions in the prompt that aren’t relevant to your family, disregard them and use the interview questions as a guide.

4. Get It on Video

Ask your relative if they mind you recording the interview. Some will feel put on the spot and others won’t mind at all. I recorded a few videos of my great Jessica and Bruce uncle Bruce [pictured on the right at his WWII Veteran's Reunion in 2009], just a year before his passing and now watching the videos are part of our family reunion tradition. Although they were short videos — 3-5 minutes each — hearing the story from him and seeing him smile makes it so much more meaningful to our family.

There’s something really special when you have your family member sharing family stories first-hand vs. having it recorded on notepads. The later isn’t bad, but if we could go back and record each one of our ancestors to understand their perspective, who would say no?

If you don’t live close to relatives, use the upcoming holidays as an opportunity to sit down with them. For those who can’t see them this holiday season, there are easy to download mobile apps that allow you to record telephone conversations or even third-party software that allow you to record Skype videos. Another alternative is using Google+ Hangouts, which are free. You can make them private and select the “On Air” feature so it will automatically record and publish to “private” on your personal YouTube page.

Do you have tips for conducting family interviews? If so, share them with us!

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Creative Ways to Get Your Kids Excited About Family History Month – Part Two Thu, 16 Oct 2014 14:29:06 +0000 Jessica Murray Read more]]> If you didn’t catch our blog last week, we’re hosting a weekly series in October in honor of Family History Month with creative ideas on getting the kids and young adults in your family excited about family history. Today we continue with three new activities you can do with little ones.

1. Little Detectives

Before she was a professional genealogist, Juliana Szucs helped her mother find family surnames on their microfilm reader in the basement. (This was before the days of census indexing and going page-by-page was the only way to find people.) Each family surname she and her sisters found and recorded on an index card earned them $.25. It was then Juliana discovered her passion for family history because of the rush in finding people she was related to, the financial reward was just icing on the cake.

But you don’t have a microfilm reader in your basement? You’re not alone.

Reward your kiddos with money, points or a present when they find a certain source or a family surname in offline documents. For older kids, navigating online might be easier to search across the more than 14 billion records in Ancestry’s database. Having them help in your research and piece together clues as a team will make the story of your family that much more exciting to them.

If your little ones are savvy on smartphones or tablet devices (what kid isn’t?!) check out the newest Ancestry iOS 6.0 update which was released in September and has exciting features which you can learn more about here.

2. Family Cookbooks

My Mix of Six Family Cookbook

My Mix of Six Family Cookbook

Every three years, my family gathers our favorite recipes and, of course, traditional recipes passed down and compiles a cookbook that is given out at our family reunion.

My great-grandfather’s chipped beef gravy recipe is hands down the family favorite, but it’s not the food on its own but the stories around how this recipe came to be that makes it so special. My great-grandfather was an enlisted man in the Navy with a wife and eight children to support. My great-grandparents resorted to the cheapest of ingredients when cooking for their family, so chipped beef gravy became a staple. My other family favorite is oyster stew on Christmas morning. It wasn’t until I was in my teens that I realized not every family ate oyster stew on Christmas mornings. Many people think it’s an odd tradition to have in the first place, but it’s ours and sure enough, I look forward to oyster stew every holiday season.

In this example, blogger Shauna Thompson on My Mix of Six photocopied the original recipe cards her grandmother had handed down to make their family cookbook even more sentimental. I especially love that she included original photos of her grandmother’s kitchen. Check out the photos here.

3. Flash Cards Meets “Peek-A-Boo”

Memory meets peek-a-boo in this DIY spin off. For your visual learners, use existing photographs around the house to help teach little ones how they’re related to different family members.

In this example, No Time For Flash Cards repurposes the tops of diaper wipe containers to make small frames on the wall which open and close so her daughter can identify the family member. Visit this link for how-to instructions on making your own game of peek-a-boo.

Another way to improvise, if you don’t want to tape anything to your walls is to put construction paper over existing family picture frames in your house. The front would have your child’s relationship to the person in the photograph and when they move the construction paper, it reveals who the person is. This would make an easy game that they can revisit over hours or days and they’ll get familiar with who is in the photographs they see throughout your house.

Have more ideas on getting kids excited about family history? Share with us and your idea may be featured in a future post! 

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Do You Have a Search Strategy? Tue, 14 Oct 2014 21:04:51 +0000 Juliana Smith Read more]]> While global searches on Ancestry—whether in a search form, from your tree, or from Family Tree Maker—are great for capturing some censuses, and many other records where lots of detail has been indexed, sometimes you need to dig a little deeper to uncover new records. It’s important to remember that a global search on Ancestry searches 14 billion records, in collections that are very diverse. While it’s an efficient search for many collections, some records just don’t rise to the surface.  If you’re relying strictly on Hints and global searches to find your ancestors, you may be missing out on some exciting discoveries.

Beyond Global Searches

In some cases, it’s better to search on a category level. For example, say you’re looking for your immigrant ancestor’s arrival. If you go to the Search tab and select Immigration & Travel from the box on the right side of the page, you can search from there and you will be restricting your search to immigration, travel and citizenship records. Not only are you ruling out billions of other records that aren’t relevant to what you’re searching for, you’re using a search form that is tailored to the types of information that we find in these types of records. You can narrow your search further by focusing on only passenger lists, by limiting your search to those records in that sub-category. (That said, for the U.S. you may want to check the sub-category of Border Crossings & Passports as well, to see if your ancestor came in via Canada or Mexico. At certain points in time, it was cheaper to travel to Canada first and then go to the U.S.)


You should also consider searching collections directly. This is the most powerful way to search in most cases. You’re searching a much smaller subset of records and you can tailor your search to the fields that have been indexed.

Focusing on What You’re Missing

The first step in forming a search strategy is to determine what you’re missing. Look over your ancestor’s profile in their online tree or at what you have gathered in your files. Are there gaps? Have you found them in every census? What are you trying to learn about them? Once you’ve got a target in mind, it’s time to explore what collections are available that can provide the information you’re seeking. There are two ways to do that on Ancestry.

The first is the Card Catalog. You can search the Card Catalog for a collection by title or keyword. (Title searches look for the terms in the title; keyword searches look for the terms in both the title and collection description.) You can also filter the collections by category, geographic location (country, state, and county levels), and time frame.

Another way to explore what records are available on Ancestry is to Explore by Location. Go to the Search tab and scroll down to the map at the bottom of the page. This map will default to the country your membership is through, but you can browse what’s available for other countries using the tabs above the map.


Searching Directly

So by now, hopefully you’ve found a collection of interest. Before you dive in to search, take a moment to read the collection description. The collection description will give you source information and, often, details that will help you with your search. It will also tell you if there are gaps in the coverage. For example, the Indiana Marriage Collection, 1800-1941 has records that span 141 years, but that coverage is not available for every county. There is a table at the bottom of the page that lists what years are available for each county.

There is also something to be said for doing a trial search if you’re not having any luck. See how the records are formatted and what is indexed. There may be some clues there that will help you tweak your search. Try a search for Smith or some other common surname that you think will be in the collection. Here’s an example from the Ancestry collection of Ireland, Select Catholic Birth and Baptism Registers, 1763-1912.


This sampling of Smith baptisms has a mix of English given names, Latin given names, and abbreviations. Knowing this, it might be a good idea to search with just the root of the given name and a wild card (for example, Pat* for Patrick, Patricius, Patricii, or Patricium; Tho* for Thomas, Thos, or Thomam, etc.)

Another takeaway from this collection is that parents’ names are indexed. Searching for variants of the parents’ names and only the surname in the top field, you may find the records of multiple children born to those parents. Just keep in mind that there may be variations in the way the parents’ names are recorded as well.


We’ve compiled a guide to these search strategies that you can download here in our Learning Center. Happy Searching!

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Naturalization Records: What Good Are They and Where Can I Find Them? Tue, 14 Oct 2014 17:54:42 +0000 Lou Szucs Read more]]> A Brief History of the Naturalization Process in the United States

Naturalization is the legal procedure by which an alien becomes a citizen of a state or country. Every nation has different rules that determine citizenship. In the United States, naturalization is a judicial procedure that flows from Congressional legislation. However, from the time the first naturalization act was passed in 1790 until 1906, there were no uniform standards. As a consequence, before September 1906, the various federal, state, county, and local courts generated a wide variety of citizenship records that are stored in sundry courts, archives, warehouses, libraries and private collections.

What Can I Learn from Naturalization Documents? 

Because almost everyone is curious about where their ancestors and relatives came from, as well as if, when and where they became American citizens, naturalization records are in high demand. The biographical information in citizenship papers assumes importance as a link to the past, and sometimes represents the only way to discover the Old World origins of an individual or a family.

Another value of citizenship papers is that they often fill the gaps where other records are missing. For example, most states did not require the registration of births and deaths until well after 1900 and in some cases a date on a naturalization document may be the only means of discovering when an individual was born.

Inconsistencies of Information Provided in Naturalizations Documents Created Before 1906 

Generally speaking, most pre-1906 naturalization papers contain little information of biographical value. In the absence of standardized naturalization forms, federal, state, county and other minor courts of record created their own documents, which varied greatly in format. In the majority of cases, only the name of the individual, his or her native country, and the date of the naturalization are given; rarely is the exact town of origin named. There are, however some wonderful exceptions so it is worth seeking pre-1906 citizenship documents. Depending on the state and county, a number of early records do include the name of the town, exact birthdate, date of departure from home country, and arrival date in the United States.

Naturalization for Mathias pre 1906

Naturalization for Mathias pre 1906


Standardized Information Provided in Naturalization Documents Created After 1906 

Petitions for naturalization, particularly after 27 September 1906, provide the full name of the applicant, his or her current address (in the U.S.), occupation, age, birth date, birthplace, sex, complexion, eye color, hair color, height, weight, visible distinctive marks, and current and former citizenship. Post-1906 naturalization forms ask for marital status. If married, the applicant was asked the name of the spouse, marriage date, marriage place, birth date and birthplace of spouse date and place of spouse’s entrance to the United States, and current residence of spouse. The form also asked whether or not the spouse was a naturalized citizen and, if the answer was yes, where and when the naturalization took place. The applicant was further asked the number of children born to him or her and the date and place of birth of each, and where and when his or her lawful admission for permanent residence in the United States took place. The signature of the applicant completed the first section of the petition. The second part of the petition consisted of the affidavit of witnesses.  It included their names and addresses and sworn and signed statements of their knowledge of the applicant. Beginning in 1929, declarations of intention included a photograph of the individual.

Maria Von Trapp Declaration of Intent

Maria Von Trapp Declaration of Intent, courtesy of the National Archives at Boston


Where Do I Start? 

To begin the search for an immigrant’s origins, learn as much as you can about that person, including full name, approximate birth date, native country, approximately when that person came to the United States, and where that person lived after his or her arrival in the United States.

Before 1906, any federal, state or local court of record could naturalize citizens, so tracking down the court is usually the first course of action.  Fortunately, many naturalization indexes are available online.

Click on the “Search” tab at Ancestry and then on the link to the Citizenship & Naturalization Records category to search the millions of naturalization records that have been indexed and some naturalizations documents that have been digitized. To honor your ancestor’s decision to become a citizen, you can also attach these records to your online tree at Ancestry.

To help you track many of the online collections of naturalization records, visit Joe Beine’s website.

While millions of naturalization records are online at Ancestry and elsewhere, not all court records or their indexes have been digitized.  In some cases, you may need to search by state, county or at the local level to find the court where your ancestor was naturalized. Almost every state, most county and many local governments have great archives and websites where you can learn more about the records that were kept for the area where your immigrant ancestors lived. Many have detailed descriptions of any naturalization record holdings.

The Process of Becoming a U.S. Citizen

Aliens intending to be naturalized citizens first filed a declaration of intention to become a citizen of the United States and renouncing allegiance to a foreign sovereign. The declaration usually preceded proof of residence or a petition to become a citizen by two or more years.  After five years (except for a brief period when the laws changed) an alien could petition a court to be naturalized.  Many individuals waited for more than the required five years to complete the naturalization process and in some years, those honorably discharged from the military service did not have to file a declaration of intention and the waiting period was shortened.  Some filed their declarations and for one reason or another may never have completed the process with the petition to be naturalized. The final step was the actual naturalization. The alien received a certificate of naturalization, and that record would have gone with him or her, and a “stub” was typically retained by the court.

Women and children generally did not need to apply for separate citizenship as they derived citizenship either from their fathers or their spouses. Non-native children became citizens when their father was naturalized. Between 1855 and 1922, an alien woman became a citizen automatically if she married an American citizen. Relatively few single women became naturalized before 1922, and married women could not be naturalized unless they were widowed or divorced. Women twenty-one years of age were entitled to citizenship in 1922 and derivative citizenship was discontinued. For more information on women and the naturalization process, see this article from the National Archives’ Prologue magazine.

Search for your ancestor’s naturalization record on Ancestry.

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Genealogical Research in Your Italian Ancestral Town Tue, 14 Oct 2014 17:27:30 +0000 Read more]]> The catalyst for my pursuit of genealogy as a profession was the influence of my Italian immigrant grandparents. Because they have always been so wonderful and kind to me, I wanted to learn more about them. I wanted to know why being with them made me feel so special and warm, made me feel so Italian. The manner of their influence was something that came from another place and time. It was something that came from where they came from—their ancestral towns in Italy. Grand Canal and Basilica Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, Italy

I’ve had the opportunity to perform onsite research in my grandfather’s hometown of San Pietro a Maida, Calabria. To see where he was born, where he used to play as a boy, and to walk literally in his footsteps inspired me to want others to have the same experience. I want my fellow Italian-Americans to embrace our shared heritage through Italian genealogical research.  I encourage all Italian-Americans to visit their ancestral towns in Italy.

Every Italian-American family has a unique origin – an Italian ancestral town (or towns) that is the source of family culture, howsoever Americanized. The dialects, customs, gestures, sensibilities and recipes are regional influences that are encoded in us from an early age. We accept them as natural and, often, as a source of pride, especially the recipes.  So finding the family’s ancestral town is the first step toward a deeper understanding of who and what we are.  Genealogical research provides a gateway to that understanding by taking us to the homes of past generations in Italy—our personal integral piece of Italian history. It is my hope that this guest blog will be a jumping off point for those wishing to pursue onsite genealogical research in Italy.  Buona fortuna!

1. Verify Your Family’s Ancestral Town or Towns in Italy.

Before booking your plane ticket to Italy, it is first necessary verify your family’s ancestral town or towns.  (Please see “Getting Started With Italian Genealogy” for some tips about beginning your Italian research and locating your town of origin in Italy.)  Sometimes the awareness of an ancestral town is part of a family’s oral history and the center of family stories.  In other families, knowledge of ancestral towns was not passed down through the generations.  But in those cases, proven genealogical research techniques can provide the means for finding out family origins.

The ancestral towns of our parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc. can sometimes be found on passenger manifests; naturalization records; vital records (birth, marriage, and death records) of the immigrant, the spouse of the immigrant or even the children of the immigrant; military records; obituaries; newspaper articles; and other sources.  (Many of these resources can be found right here on!)  It should be noted that the process of finding an ancestral town can take a researcher anywhere from a few hours to a few months or years. But whatever the case, it’s important to have a plan and to never give up. The eventual result will be worth the effort.

Once you have initially identified your ancestral town in Italy, it is recommend that you confirm this information by obtaining a birth record (or baptismal record) or marriage record for your ancestor (at minimum) either directly from the town or a scan or photocopy of the record from Family History Library microfilm, if available.  It is always best to obtain a vital record or church record for your ancestor to confirm your Italian ancestral town prior to pursuing any onsite research in Italy.  Here are few sources where you may find vital records for your Italian ancestors:

Once you have exhausted the genealogical resources accessible from your home country and all resources available online or on microfilm, it is time to prepare for your genealogical research trip and to buy your ticket to Italy!

2. Create a Set of Research Goals.

One of the keys to a successful onsite research trip in Italy is careful preparation.  Before departing for Italy create a set of research goals for your trip.  What are the questions about your Italian ancestors that you would love to know?  For example: “What was my great great grandmother’s name?” or “Did my family own land?” or “What were the occupations of the men in my family before they immigrated?”  Be creative, be curious.  These research goals will help give focus to your research.

3. Formulate a Research Plan.

After creating a list of research goals, the next step is to create a research plan that give you a roadmap for accomplishing these goals.  A sound research plan will include where the records are located (i.e. the name of the repository), how the records are accessed, the address and hours of the repository and, if possible, a contact person at the repository.  (For more ideas about creating a genealogical research plan and doing effective research, check out “Five Steps to Doing Genealogy Research Like A Pro.”)

4. Call Ahead!

After you have established your research goals and have put a research plan in place, the next step is to contact (via telephone, email, snail mail, etc.) the archives, offices and churches you’d like to visit while you’re in Italy.  In some cases, an appointment may be necessary to conduct research.  Always be polite when communicating with a repository representative or individual archivist.  In some locations, researchers will not be allowed to access records.  Regardless of the situation, it is important to be professional, thankful, and gracious.

Best Places for Genealogical Research in Italy.

There is no single centralized repository in Italy that contains all the records genealogists will need to research their family histories.  So it is necessary to tackle Italian genealogical research on at the local level.  This requires a trip to your ancestral town to conduct research in the place where your ancestors lived.  Here are some of best places to visit on an Italian research trip:

  1. Italian Municipal Offices: Ufficio dello Stato Civile & Ufficio Anagrafe – Civil Registration Office and Demographics Office are at the town level in Italy.

These offices typically contain birth, marriage, and death records as well as demographics data abut your Italian ancestors.  The years civil records begin at various places in Italy does vary (directly tied to the history of Italy), so do some research on your specific location to find out what’s available.

  1. La Chiesa & L’Archivio Diocesano – The Parish Church and Diocesan Archive typically contain the Church records for you Italian ancestors.

Many Catholic Churches in Italy hold records back to the 1500’s or 1600’s.  On occasion, Church registers go back further.  The Diocesan Archives sometimes contain copies of all the records of parishes contained in the Diocese.  It is often necessary to make an appointment with the parish priest in your ancestral town to access the records.

  1. Archivi di Stato – Provincial Archives in Italy

Your first point of contact here should be the Archivio di Stato in your ancestral province. The Italian Archival System has an Online Card Catalogue.  Check to see if the Civil Registration, Military records, or other record types you need are at the Archive.

  1. Biblioteca – Library

Local, regional, and national libraries in Italy often have excellent resources for exploring the local history and culture of the area.  It is so important to put our ancestors in the historical context in which they lived.  Researching local history in Italy is a great way to do this.

Expect the Unexpected.

No matter how carefully you prepare your research goals or how thoroughly you arrange your research itinerary, inevitably something unexpected will happen—a critical appointment with the priest in charge of church records is rescheduled at the last minute; the archivist takes a sick day; or records access is unilaterally denied.  No matter what happens, remember to maintain a positive outlook and to make the most of your research time in Italy.  Be prepared for the both the joys and challenges of Italian culture.  Each town and city in Italy is unique, and thus research must be adaptable. The idiosyncratic contacts, priests, archivists, librarians, and others will make your experience in your ancestral town all the more special!

The special differences from one Italian town to the next give each Italian-American family its unique Italian heritage, familiar only to fellow Italian-Americans from the same ancestral town. But we all share the uniqueness in our Italian hearts.   I wish you buona fortuna (good fortune) with your Italian genealogical research experience!

This is a guest post written by Mary M. Tedesco, a professional genealogist, speaker, and author. She is a genealogist on the PBS TV series “Genealogy Roadshow” (season 2) as well as the Founder of ORIGINS ITALY, a firm specializing in Italian and Italian-American genealogical and family history research. Mary holds a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics from Boston University and a Certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University’s Center for Professional Education. In addition to her Italian ancestry (Calabria, Trentino-Alto Adige, and Tuscany) on her father’s side, she also has deep American roots (German, Irish, Danish & English) on her mother’s side and is proud member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Mary is a member of a number of local and national genealogical societies and serves on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Genealogical Council. She can be contacted @

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Ancestry Weekly Roundup: October 13th Edition Mon, 13 Oct 2014 20:52:56 +0000 Anne Gillespie Mitchell Read more]]> Blog Posts



From the Barefoot Genealogist:

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Beyond Records. Adding Colour to Your Tree. Sun, 12 Oct 2014 10:36:39 +0000 Brian Gallagher Read more]]> I was visiting an old friend recently who I had not seen in some years. We talked about our lives and our jobs and all that had happened since we had last met. She was very interested to hear about Ancestry and immediately began to tell me about her father.

Her father passed away in 2009, but it was only recently that she and her brother had decided to sell his house. They started to clear it out and pack away furniture, paintings, ornaments; all the things we accumulate during our lives. When they were clearing the attic, my friend recalls lifting a small cardboard box from a dark corner. Covered in spider webs and thick with dust, she sensed there was something important about that box.

‘I don’t know what it was, when I lifted it and it rattled, I knew-well I guess I thought there was something special in that box’, she said.

The box contained tapes and those tapes contained hours of recordings. Her father had bought a recorder back when nobody had one, certainly nobody from their quiet rural village anyway. Each tape held precious recordings of interviews her father had conducted with his elderly relatives and neighbors. Some recordings were funny, some were sad, but all contained information on their families back through the generations. This information would have been lost had her father not had the interest to record their stories.


My friend has been busy converting the tapes to digital and writing down the family tree information she has gleaned from the recordings. She admits to not having had an urge to research her family history until she found that box. Now with the information on those tapes and the records available on Ancestry she can build her family tree for future generations to appreciate.

Could she have found records and built her tree without those tapes? Of course she could, but the tapes were the catalyst and the inspiration to build her tree. The recordings will save her time and more importantly, add colour and stories to her family tree that records alone could not.

When it comes to family history research many of us are creatures of habit. We research and record data about our family with care and precision. Often we can find ourselves following tried and tested methods of research, building our trees meticulously over time. However, with such dedication can come isolation. Isolation from resources closer to home which can help build out your family tree and add colourful stories to each branch. Technology has come a long way since my friend’s father decided to record his relatives’ stories. These days most of us carry a recording device in our pocket but never think to use our phone to record our family’s stories.

Have you ever thought to record your family’s stories?

Wherever possible, record your parents’ and grandparents’ stories. If you are a grandparent – record your stories for your grandchildren.

Records are the foundation of our trees; family stories are the colourful leaves to fill the branches!


To be in with a chance of winning the ultimate family history package click here


To learn more and to share your stories follow us on  Twitter and Facebook.


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Free Genealogist’s Toolkit to Power Your Family History Research Fri, 10 Oct 2014 14:56:15 +0000 Juliana Smith Read more]]> Sepia Toned Image Of A ToolkitAt Ancestry, we know that researching and telling your family story is a craft. And every craftsperson needs a good set of tools. We’re committed to bringing you the best educational resources and research tools possible. Whether it’s a blank census form, research guides, how-to videos, or a community where you can ask questions and share your successes, we’ve got you covered.

For Family History Month, we compiled some of the many resources Ancestry offers for free into a convenient PDF that you can save to your desktop. Now all your favorite tools are just a click away. Click here to download our Ancestry Genealogy Toolkit.

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Creative Ways to Get Your Kids Excited About Family History Month – Part One Thu, 09 Oct 2014 14:15:26 +0000 Jessica Murray Read more]]> Young boy with father and grandfather drawing with crayons at hoIn honor of Family History Month, we’re launching a four-part series for the month with ideas for sharing your passion for family history research with the little ones and young adults in your family. Each week, we will bring you a handful of different activities, with an emphasis on getting crafty and creative.

We hope you’ll treasure the moments you’ll be spending with the younger generations!

1. Cemetery Scavenger Hunt 

One thing my friends and family know about me, I love a good scavenger hunt. Why not try this on your next cemetery visit and make it a fun activity that your little ones can participate in?

Our own professional genealogist Crista Cowan likes to take her nephews on tours of her local cemeteries and provides them clues to find their own relatives. Once they discover the correct headstone, she shares who they were, how they’re related and meaningful stories she’s discovered about them. She’s now known among her nephews and nieces as the go-to person they can ask about their family history.

If you’re not sure how to get little ones involved, Climbing My Family Tree provides free printable scavenger hunts for little ones including a chart of symbols, which is helpful for those unable to read. For those older children, there is also a scavenger hunt with a more exhaustive list of symbols they can find around their nearest cemetery.

A trip to the cemetery is also a great opportunity to teach kids about the dos and don’ts of cemetery etiquette. As a reminder, always check with the local cemetery to see what rules they have that are specific to their property. We have a cemetery etiquette guide here as well. And of course, keep a close eye on children at the cemetery to make sure they don’t get injured. Don’t let them lean on markers that may be unsteady and watch for sunken spots and other hazards.

2. Genealogy Glossary

Most kids can easily describe their relation to cousins and grandparents but do they know what words like maternal, paternal or even the sometimes confusing abbreviations they may find common on headstones? Test their knowledge by asking them to describe how they’re related to certain family members and educate them on what words they might find common in family history research. Here’s a genealogical glossary to help you out.

3. Family History Bingo

This is one I plan to play with my 10-year-old sister over the holidays. We will invite my younger cousins to come over and join in the action. Create a bingo card with up to five columns and five rows. You can easily do more but be sure to make the card larger or better yet, make multiple bingo cards for multiple players! Then put the names of all pictured family members into a bowl and call out names until someone gets everyone in a row, column, or diagonally.

See this example here:

Family Bingo Card

Family Bingo Card

Some tips:

  • We recommend using close up photos so kids can easily make out who is in the photo and also make sure the photos at the same sizes like the example above.
  • Use coins, cereal, or round paper cut outs to use in lieu or bingo markers so you don’t ruin your beautiful cards.
  • Not especially savvy with designing bingo cards? Here’s a great family bingo template we found.
  • To really motivate the kiddos, make it a points or rewards based game where they win something at the end.

We hope you’ll find these ideas helpful and put them into action with your family. Please share your family’s take on these and other Family History Month activities in the comments section, or share a photo with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Happy Family History Month!

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