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.