Every journey begins with a single step and that is exactly how my journey to find my roots started. I began my genealogy research for my family tree about 15 years ago as a hobby to find out information for my dad. He grew up in a family that didn’t really talk about who or where they came from.
In his later years, my dad started to wonder about his roots and family history. I started the research for him and have become very involved in learning more about my family history for myself. I’m not sure if the search is really ever over as every day I am discovering more links to the past and it all started with a link to the past. A single step taken has led to a wealth of knowledge about my family and it can for you also!
My Journey to Find My Family Tree
Years ago, when I first started compiling information about my family, I started with what I knew. Granted, that really wasn’t much. I knew my grand-parents names, my parents names, some of my cousins and of course my siblings. I wrote down everything into lists by family units and then started researching free genealogy sites in order to store my information in and make it easier to sift through all the data.
I then started questioning my parents for additional relatives names. I combed through their photo albums and made notes on the pictures of people I didn’t recognize. It is fascinating learning new things about your family members and looking at old photos is like taking a journey. The memories including in those old family photos will really entice your family members to help you with your research.
I’ve spent hours going over photos with my mom and each time, she gives me a piece of the puzzle when she relates what she remembers about the family member or time-frame involved. Including in the photo albums have been newspaper clippings and death notices, which are really great pieces of information for compiling your family tree. Each one is a link to the past and helps to fill in gaps within the family tree.
Setting Goals and Achieving Them
When I started the journey to discover my roots, I set some non-specific goals which I wanted to achieve and have revisited them through-out the process. I was amazed when I reached 500 people and as of today, I have achieved my next goal of adding 1,000 people to my family file.
A single step to finding a link to the past has now led to the discovery of over 1,000 links to my family tree. It is simply amazing to me that starting with just my mom’s parents, Virgil C. Herrick and Ella Mary Parker Herrick, 1,000 people have been connected between my mom and dad’s sides of the family. It is truly incredible that 2 people can affect the world so enormously. The thought that if either of them had not met, what would my family tree look like?
Discovering Your Ancestors
Discovering your ancestors and filling in your family tree is like a puzzle. Each new piece of information gives you a whole new path to follow. I like to take the information where it leads me. I focus on one tiny branch at a time. For example, I wrote down all of my siblings names and their childrens’ names. I then entered each one with their spouses and children by family unit and searched for all the information I could find before moving onto the next sibling.
By researching this way, your branches of your tree will fill out more so and you won’t get confused on where you left off at. I like to see a complete family unit before I move onto another. Of course I run into additional siblings I didn’t have before (not my own!) sometimes or additional children and just add them and fill out as much as you can.
Finding A Link To The Past
Finding a link to the past can be a cumbersome task, but by filling out each branch one at a time, you’ll save yourself some headache. I find it easier to do it a branch at a time so you are focused on specific names and dates. Skipping around causes me some headache because I end up looking for someone with the wrong birth/death date or the wrong spelling of the name.
For an example, I looked for my great-grandfather Edward Herrick with his two oldest children and wife Adda. In Michigan, where they lived at the time, the names of two Edward Herrick’s appear, both with wives named a variation of Adda and both with 2 children. The names of the children for one of the Edward Herrick’s did not both match any of my family members and thus I knew that the second Edward Herrick was correct.
Had I not been focused on the names of his children, the birthdays of everyone and the name of his spouse, I could have easily had added the wrong Edward Herrick to my file. My mother knows so little about her grand-father Edward Herrick because he died when my grand-father (her father) was a small child. My mother never knew him because he was only 32 when he died.
I had added incorrect information to my family tree file before, and let me just say it causes such a headache because I spent hours searching for a person that does not exist in family tree. Some information can led to misinformation so when you are researching your family tree, make sure the information is correct prior to adding it to your file. This will save you time especially if you do not have everyday all day long to devote to your research. Adding information intending to verify later can led to frustration because you may forget you have done this, as I have on occasion.
Building Out Your Family Tree and Enjoying The Journey
Finding the roots to your family can be a very cumbersome task, but also can be very rewarding and fun. It can be fun for the whole family when you relate what you have found out and the whole process can be enjoyable. Discovering a link to the past is like walking down the same path your ancestor has taken. It is nostalgic and feels me with a happiness which is hard to explain. It is almost like my dad is there with me as I take the journey.
My dad passed away in February 2016 from lung cancer, and by researching his family tree I get the sense he is still with me. I often visit cemeteries in my local area of Plover, WI and take photos of headstones to assist other researchers with their family tree searches and each time I feel a connection to the past. I was always afraid of cemeteries as a child, but now I find them oddly relaxing.
Cemeteries hold a wealth of knowledge in them as well and are a great place to get clues to your family history. Each time I visit Michigan, I visit the cemeteries and find headstones of relatives. I always take pictures so I have the dates and correct spellings of names. I have found most also have anniversary dates on them and many also have their kids names and even grand-kids names.
Have fun with your family research and enjoy all the time you have with those loved ones you have as life is very short. I hope all of you enjoy your research as much as I do and if you ever have any questions or comments please leave them below. I look forward to helping you all with your journeys!