Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New Website

I'm proud to announce the launch of The Ancestor Detector's brand new website.  Check it out --

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Google Book Search: Researching Your (Ancestral) Roots


This is a fantastic tool that many people might not think to utilize when doing genealogical research. 

Family Research Tips

Get as much information from all living relatives while you can. Take notes and record or videotape interviews. Ask as many questions as possible, not only about your relatives' lives and memories, but also what they know about their ancestors.

Organize, organize, organize! Set up a file system. If you are just beginning, you may want to label a file folder with each family surname that you will be tracing. As you continue researching your family history, your files will grow rapidly. If you are not organized from the beginning, you may be setting yourself up for lots of frustration.

Back up everything! Keep both hard (paper) copies of documents and digital copies, as well. If you do not own a quality scanner, you will need to purchase one. Scan every document and file both electronically and in your paper files. Do the same for all family photos, newspaper clippings and certificates. I recommend saving all electronic files on an external hard drive, so that everything will be safe in the event of a computer malfunction. I also recommend keeping duplicate copies of your records off-site. For example, you can keep a duplicate hard drive in a safety deposit box or with a relative. Or, for only $60/year, a company called Carbonite will back up your files to their servers, and if you ever need them (or they accidentally get deleted), all you have to do is download the file back to your computer. It's so easy, and is a fantastic insurance policy for the money.

Carefully identify and label all known people in family photos with an archival-safe photo pen (available at most craft or photography stores.)

Cite your sources. It is imperative that you thoroughly cite each and every record that you come across while doing your research. Label not only where the information came from (the book, courthouse, repository) but also when you accessed the information. Don't forget the little details either, like the page number, file or folder number or microfilm number.

If you're just starting your family history research and don't know where to begin, find your birth certificate and any marriage and/or divorce records that pertain to you. Do the same for your parents and grandparents. If they are deceased, be sure to also locate their death certificates, obituaries, funeral home records, or any other records that you can find. Other great family sources to try and locate are family bibles and baptism records. Many times these items will be stuffed away in old boxes in an attic, turning yellow with age. It is important to organize this documents and move them to archival-safe storage (albums or boxes) to prevent further damage. Once you've gathered all of the information that you can, contact a professional genealogist, like The Ancestor Detector, who will help you dig a little deeper into your past and help you to build your family tree.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Why Is Genealogy Important?

The reasons for tracing one's family history likely varies from one person to the next.  The things that inspire me are likely different from the things that excite you.  But regardless of who you are and where you are in life, below are some of the reasons why you should become passionate about genealogy... that is, if you aren't already completely addicted:

  • Sheer Curiosity:  Maybe you've never heard very much about your family's past?  Maybe you really want to know if Uncle Abraham was arrested for bootlegging (as family lore would have it) or if Aunt Mabel's family really did come from Ireland?  Maybe you'd like to know if a celebrity or other famous ancestor lurks in your family tree?  Whatever spurs on your curiosity, you'll never find an answer to that nagging question if you don't start looking.
  • To Preserve the Memory a Relative:  Perhaps you recently lost a parent or grandparent?  One way to honor that person's memory would be to research their family history (which is your family history, too!)  If family was important to that individual, learning more about their past is a way to further connect with them.  As an example, my grandmother (who passed away 10 years ago) was very dedicated to her family and preserving family's heirlooms.  Unfortunately, I was too young and too disinterested when she was alive to ask her about her family.  By researching my grandmother's lineage, not only have I been able to learn about her heritage, but I feel more connected to her than ever before because I knew that honoring family was so important to her.
  • To Teach Your Children:  It doesn't matter how old your children are --  Whether they have left the nest or are still in diapers, tracing your family history is an important way to educate them about where they come from (and I'm not talking about the birds and the bees here).  Teaching your children about your roots can strengthen family ties and encourage family bonding.  Create a compiled family history.  It can be a priceless heirloom for your children that can later be passed on to their children.  Teaching your children about their roots can also help them easily relate to history by making it personal.  Learning about World War I might seem a tad boring to a kid in school, but by teaching that child how Great-Grandpa Joe got drafted in 1918, and was sent to France to fight might just make that child become a little more interested in history. 
  • For Health Reasons:  It may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but one reason that some people choose to get involved in genealogy is to trace their medical history.  Death certificates, obituaries and funeral home records can hold key pieces of information.  By tracing your family history, you might discover a pattern in the cause of death for some of your relatives.  For example, learning that several of your ancestors died from a specific form of cancer or a rare disease might make you more inclined to stay on top of those physicals or seek out a specific screening test that you otherwise wouldn't.
  • To Connect with Living Relatives:  Tracing your family history can open you up to a whole other family you didn't even know existed.  The father back your research takes you, the more descendants (and living cousins) you will discover.  Not only can you connect with new relatives and form new relationships, but you might even discover that someone you've known your whole life is - in fact - related to you. 

  • To Join a Lineage Society:  Have you ever wanted to join a lineage society, like the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Sons of the Confederacy, or the Colonial Dames?  Well, in order to become a member in any hereditary society, you much first trace your lineage to find a qualifying ancestor.  For the Daughters of the American Revolution, you much prove that you are of direct descent from a soldier in the Revolutionary War.  For the Sons of the Confederacy, you must find an ancestor who rendered service to the Confederacy during the Civil War.  There are numerous lineage societies in existence that span many topics, besides military history.  These topics range from Presidential Families and Early Settlers to Scottish Clans and Royal Descent.  These groups not only work to preserve history but are also heavily involved in community service, from sponsoring scholarships to shipping items overseas to those on active military duty.

Whatever your reasons for being interested in genealogy, one thing is certain:  knowing about your family history is empowering.  Finding your roots and discovering your own story can be a real adventure.  So, don't procrastinate any further.  Get started today.