I recently got an email out of the blue from someone claiming to be related to me. They said they had come upon my name while researching their family tree on Ancestry.com and gave me a quick list of how we were related. Sure enough, I recognized one of the names as someone my dad used to talk about as being part of the family that had split from the rest (for reasons no one ever mentioned.)
My own kids had been doing their own little family trees for school and urged me to do a real one. They had been curious about our history and I was embarrassed that past one generation or so, I didn’t have much to tell them. I went to Ancestry.com and found out I could get going immediately for free. There’s a 14 day free-trial period when you can access basically any records ever kept anywhere, but the growing the family tree part is always free. Right off the bat I discovered something that got me hooked – my dad’s grandfather was listed as being a crew member of one of the ships that rescued people from the Titanic!
Filling out the tree was very easy and you can do one for each family member. Then it grows and branches out as Ancestry.com’s research discovers more people and more details for you. They even offer suggestions and tips on how to make the best use of their tools. You enter what you know (names, cities, dates, etc.) and they do the rest. I thought it was kind of cool and very helpful that when Ancestry.com thinks it’s found something interesting or a possible connection, a shaking leaf appears next to the person’s name, inviting you to dig deeper.
Long story short, we’ve now traced our roots back 4 generations on both my wife and I’s sides! The kids love it. It’s like a history lesson that their whole family is a part of. They even put people and dates into historical context that they had learned in school: “Oh, so when great-great grandma came to America, WWI was happening.”
For me, growing our family tree has allowed me to connect with my ancestors in a way I never would have been able to otherwise. I don’t want to get all metaphysical, but it brings them back to life in a sense. Plus, now this is something I can pass on to my kids, and them to theirs.
So, like I said, it’s free to get started and if you want to dig deeper and become a member (which I have) there are coupons here for discounts. I heartily recommend it. Made me feel good and is interesting as heck.