When starting your genealogy search, it is important to understand what you are up against. Our histories are a fickle thing. Sometimes individuals may be looking for their parents or other long lost family members. Others think they know all about where they came from, only to find out that they were given inaccurate information. The ease in finding information may depend on your country of origin, how family members came to this country, and how well their history has been documented over time.
When you decide to start tracing your genealogy, it’s helpful to first identify what is already known. Useful tools for this may include using a multi-generational chart and finding a list of good questions to ask. I have always been told that my dad is 100% Dutch and that my mom is mostly German with a little Irish and Welsh sprinkled in from her mother’s side. I was able to trace my heritage back to my great grandparents and great great grandparents in some cases, but that was as far as I got.
Next, it is important to identify what you want to learn. For my Welsh ancestry, I could only dream that I was related to Princess Diana. As you’re working to trace your ancestry, start slow and do not skip generations in your research. From there, identifying and locating sources is the next step. Some recommended websites include AmericanAncestors.org, FamilySearch.org, MyHertiage.com, Ancestry.com, 23andme.com, Fold3.com (specializes in Military), and Findagrave.com.
When going through your research, be skeptical of what you find. Your name may have many different spellings, and the person who immigrated, likely had a different accent. Literacy was not prevalent until the 20th century, so the odds are against many of us. I’ve been told that some people were trying to hide their age upon immigrating and that others had to change their recorded nationality based on the quota of certain counties being filled. It may be hard to get 100% accurate information.
Local libraries have been found to be very helpful in tracing family history, as they keep great local records. Keep in mind that records were often kept in churches as well, so the availability may depend on whether local churches remained intact throughout history. You may find digital records, but certain countries may have marriage licenses and baptisms digitalized, while others have not yet had the chance to do so.
Using websites like Ancestry.com, My Heritage DNA and 23 and Me can lead you to other people that share your DNA, which may help in your research, but it is not often as easy as it sounds. There will still be plenty of research for you to do on your own. I used the My Heritage DNA website to locate my heritage. As it turns out, I am in fact, 51.7% North and West European (Germany, Netherlands, Ireland, and the United Kingdom), 40.3% Scandinavian (Norway, Sweden, and Denmark), 5.1% Finnish, 1.5% East European, 1.4% Central Asia, and 0.0% Welsh. So much for my ties to the Royal Family…