Posted by Ancestry Team on October 7, 2019 in Family History Month

October is Family History Month so there’s no better time to discover your own unique family story. Learning about your family history helps you better understand your past, including the triumphs and struggles your ancestors went through, and provides crucial context about who you are and where you came from. Plus, this is information you can pass down to younger generations because after all, the value of knowing your family history starts at a young age.

Decades of research from Emory University professors Dr. Marshall Duke and Dr. Robin Fivush illustrates the value of family storytelling. Their research shows that children who know more about their family tend to be more resilient and have higher self-esteem, better scholastic performance, and better chances of success when faced with adversity. 

A recent Ancestry® study found that 1 out of 3 Americans are unable to name all four of their grandparents, and 1 out of 5 were unable to name just one of their great-grandparents. Despite this statistic, nearly 4 out of 5 Americans want to know more about their heritage and family lineage. For some, it may seem intimidating to dive in to learning about your family history, but luckily, it’s easier than you may think. With Ancestry, anyone can build a personal family tree. We guide you through the process, helping you uncover rich details about your ancestors and surfacing relevant records to build your family tree. The satisfaction of building your personal family tree is unparalleled. It’s your family story and only you can choose the gems from our treasure trove of historical records, images, and family trees, as well as our expanding AncestryDNA® network to tell your story. 

Here are simple steps to getting started:

Step 1: Ask Questions

Family storytelling is so important – just by having these meaningful conversations at gatherings or by looking through old photos together, you will truly connect with one another by discussing a story that unifies you. It can also be as simple as spending a little extra time around the dinner table, giving your grandparents a weekly call, or creating a family photo album, writing in the years and places for each photo.

 Step 2: Tools Help You Uncover Answers

You can also get started by using a family history service like Ancestry that provides the tools for making discoveries about your family history to help generate new conversations. Through family tree-building on Ancestry, members can search billions of historical records that contain significant details about their ancestors so you can learn more than just if or how you’re related and discover things such as where they were born, and the places they lived, married and worshiped. You may learn about an ancestor’s journey to the Americas from a ship record. Or perhaps that your great-grandfather had an awesome mustache in high school from his yearbook photos.

Step 3: Start Searching

Once you gather some information by chatting with your family, take what you know so far (don’t worry if it’s just a few details!), and start searching. With the world’s largest online collection of family history records, Ancestry adds an average of two million records to its website each day, making it easier for you to learn more about your family’s past. 

Historical records enable members to follow their family’s paper trail revealing things like photos of their ancestors, documents with their original signatures and census information collected at their front doors. Records include marriage certificates, census and immigration records, obituaries, draft cards, even yearbook photos. These records provide a glimpse into your ancestors’ lives, such as the country they were born in, their home address, occupation, languages spoken, and so much more. Each record is a thread in a person’s family history that can provide them with missing links in their family story. 

Start adding people to your tree, and as you find new details, like first and last names, birth dates or wedding dates, Ancestry Hints® will automatically appear in your account. Each hint, or “leaf” as it looks on the site, correlates to either a record in the Ancestry archives or a family tree created by another member. These hints can make building your tree back multiple generations quicker and easier for both beginners and experts. 

Step 4: Go Further with DNA Testing

To help fill in the missing puzzle pieces of your story, take an AncestryDNA kit and pair your family tree with your results. With over 15 million members in its network, AncestryDNA is the leader in consumer genomics with the largest consumer DNA network in the world. Members can identify potential relatives, trace their origins to specific regions, and gain insights into personal traits. The magic really happens by pairing the power of Ancestry historical records together with AncestryDNA, as it helps to fill the gaps by providing a more detailed and precise look at your own unique story.

When you’re with your family, start asking questions about your ancestors and begin exploring what makes your story unique. And maybe next time you see them, YOU will be the one bringing new stories to the table.


  1. Tim

    Step 1 left out the most important item: Add Names!!! I have whole groups of pictures with a year on the back and can identify about where but no clue as to WHO is in the picture. Or just as frustrating, the annotation of “2nd cousin to mother” when from the dress of the individuals in the picture “mother” could be from more than one generation, so was “mother” your grandmother, your great-grandmother or just some friend of the family.

  2. Arthur Carter Rogers

    I celebrate Family History Month now knowing where my grandfather Rogers came from and who his parents were. I made the discovery about a year ago. My grandfather Rogers appeared in Missouri in the early 1890s. He said his father’s name was Nelson and his mother’s name was Anna. He said he was born on January 20, 1860. He died in 1946 taking most stories about himself to his grave. We did know that he had lived in New Jersey and in Wisconsin.

    After his death, one of his daughters tried to find records of him in New Jersey. None could be found. For many many years, I searched, another grandson searched, a nephew of mine searched. We did find that his death certificate said he was born in Wisconsin, but searching in Wisconsin didn’t work either. No one could find him.

    Unfortunately, Ancestry doesn’t offer a Y DNA test. Of course, I had taken the Ancestry autosomal DNA test as did my cousin, mentioned above. A little over a year ago, I took the Y DNA test from Family Tree DNA and found that my paternal parentage was Cady, not Rogers. Then searching with Ancestry for a Cady line, I found a Cady cousin whose great-grandfather was Nelson Cady who married Hannah Rogers. They had a son named Arthur Cady, born most likely in January 1860 in Wisconsin. He was 5 months old when the 1860 census was taken in early July 1860. This Cady family soon moved to New Jersey. Then in 1880, they were in New York state. With this information, a friend found an 1883 newspaper article about Arthur Cady which told us he had disappeared and why. Arthur Cady was never found.

    So I am certain that my grandfather, Albert Rogers was born as Arthur Cady. I celebrate him, his father, Nelson Cady, and especially Hannah Rogers Cady who gave me and the rest of her descendants the Rogers surname or the Rogers connection.

    I now celebrate Family History month now knowing my grandfather Rogers’ line as well as the rest of my family. I hope you celebrate your family history too.

    Arthur Carter Rogers

  3. Susan Fabian

    I agree with Tim. I have inherited hundreds of family photos that have had no information on them or things like, “cousin Bob” written on the back. Although I can still identify some of the people, many faces are lost to history.

    Since writing on the back on the back not be the best option for older photos, several years ago I gave my mom some acid free cardstock, some archival adhesive, acid free sheet protectors and a pen. I asked her to go through her photo albums, adhere one or two photos to each piece of cardstock and write who was in the photos (full names). Not only did she write who was in the photos, she included stories about what was happening when the photo was taken or where the photo was taken. This made the people in the photos more than just names. And, now that my mother is in the early stages of dementia, even more important since those names and stories would have been lost soon without her memory.

  4. Taylor Guinn

    Looking for father, would have live in Palm Beach County in 1998, and went to High School in Palm Beach County. Would be approx 37 years old. Lacy Guinn was mother

  5. Linda Jones

    I just got my DNA results but I am adopted and don’t know my bio parents name. People have come up that I guess have my DNA, but I’m new to this . Just wondering if adopted people without a name are having any success? Thanks!

  6. Joyce

    Linda there are lots of success stories out there. My husband is one of them, but I’ve also tracked other adoptees too. It’s not something that you can just “jump into” though, so suggest you look at Crista Cowen videos at this link

    and perhaps also find someone to help you get started.

    Your success will come about based on close matches to help (1st or 2nd cousins is best) and you getting familiar with DNA also. is a good DNA site to get familiar. Kitty Cooper also writes blogs, but not sure what types of things she covers. Blaine Bettinger is another well known person heavily involved in DNA.

    The more work you put into it, the better your chance of success. Good luck 🙂


    My great grandfather had a complicated history which is not reflected in the Ancestry info. I would like to correct the record but how?

  8. Tammi Holmes

    Hello! I’m looking for some advice and I’m not sure if this is where I need to start and if so maybe you can tell me where to go. I was born in December 1968 to a young single mother who gave me to her mother and step father to raise. Now, at the age of 50 I still don’t know who my biological father is. My biological mother says it was a guy named William Garfield Taylor who took off into the army and was never heard from again. Other family members claim that her stepfather was the one she was pregnant by. Both, her mother and stepfather died many years ago. I purchased the Ancestry DNA kit about 5 years ago and I haven’t done anything with it because I really don’t know what to do with it. I’m desperately searching for the right direction. Thank you so so much for your time.

  9. theresa crook

    my grandmother was named maryanne ford her grandmother was named battle my dads mothers name was ashcroft mary his dad was named albert ashcroft my mothers name was anne ford grandfather was named john tom ford my mothers brother was named austin ford his wife jean ford my cousins barbara ashcroft deceased due to diabetes margret my cousin angela ford now married her son famous soccer player with manchester tim ashcroft hemopheliac my mothers sisters rose welch deceised mary sharples her husband in concentration camp for 4 years escaped deceised jack sharples was his name sang song please release me jack john ford famous dancer deceased theresa ford married galloway scottish hes deceased she is alive in nursing home roseanne adopted and stella galloway still living scottish ancestry plaque at anne fords my supposedly mother is sir frederick prince of wales robert ashcroft my father terrific deceased my mother anne ashcroft still lives 95 years old my grandmother lived to be 100 without medications pat sharples father was jack sharples married to phil

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