Finding your Family Roots
What do you know about your family? Do you know the full names of your grand-parents and great-grandparents, or as many people do you only know them as “Ma-maw” and “Pa-paw”? Since Alex Haley’s book Roots became a popular television mini-series, more and more people are interested in their family roots. Adopted family members have the opportunity to search two families. Searching your family roots can be an interesting hobby. You may find ancestors who switched allegiance from the British to the Patriots in the Revolutionary War; relatives who fought on opposite sides in the Civil War; cousins who defied custom and law to marry; or other fascinating gossip! You have two parents and four grandparents; however, do you realize how many grandparents you can have in ten generations? In ten generations, possibly in only two hundred years, you could have as many as one-thousand and twenty grandparents! Family history information can be obtained through many sources; however, especially important are relatives; libraries; government offices; and the Church of Latter Day Saints.
1. Tools of Genealogy
The best way to start your research is to become familiar with the proper tools – Pedigree Charts; Family Group Sheets; and Research Logs. A Pedigree Chart lists you, your parents, and other direct ancestors. The Family Group Sheet is a form to record information about your parents and siblings. A Research Log is a record of sources where you do and don’t find information. A “how to” book can be helpful. When writing for information be sure to include a self-addressed-stamped-envelope and always write a thank-you to those responding. One of the most important things to remember is to RECORD your sources so that you don’t have to duplicate your efforts. Sources are very important and necessary to establish membership in DAR, SAR, or other societies.
2. You and Primary Sources
Using a Pedigree Chart and a Family Group Sheet complete as much information that you know about you and your immediate family. Look around your home for primary sources of genealogical and historical information such as the following: family Bibles; newspaper clippings; birth, death, and marriage certificates; military certificates; diaries; letters; scrapbooks; school yearbooks; photo albums; family traditions; maps; deeds; and cemetery records. When going to a cemetery take a camera to record pictures of tombstones; gate entrances; adjacent church; etc.
3. Your Family
Your parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and older relatives can provide first hand observation of family history. A cassette recorder and video cam-corder can be helpful and is an interesting way to document your family history. Not all family members are interested in genealogy, but most are interested in sharing family stories, photos, etc. This is one of the many times to use your Research Log. During these interviews, you may get reacquainted with family members.
4. The Library
The library is an excellent place to look for information. Many libraries have “special collections” of genealogical and historical books of census records; cemetery books; marriage books; county court records; deeds; probate; military service; and passenger lists. You may be fortunate enough to find a book published about your family which will help confirm other information you locate. Microfilm copies of local newspapers and city directories are helpful. In the late 1800s, many county histories were published which included biographical sketches of prominent citizens. The librarian may have suggestions, as well as, the name of a local historical or genealogical society. Some libraries provide “family files” which contain info about various families, as well as, correspondence from others those seeking info.
5. County, State, and Federal Records
County public records include marriage bonds and licenses; wills, probate, and administrations; deeds and maps; divorce and other court proceedings; naturalizations; and military discharges. State vital statistic records provide birth and death information. Military records of veterans of the Confederate States of American are kept in some southern states. The National Archives in Washington, DC keeps census, military, naturalization, and other records.
6. U.S. Federal Census Records
Some libraries have printed copies of these records. Although they can be time consuming, microfilm of census records provide much information. Early census records gave only the name of the head of the household and ages of all males and females; however, since 1850 census records include the name of all members of the household, their relationship, age, and country or state of birth. Later census records have additional information.
7. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – (The Mormon Church)
The final source in this article is the Church of the Latter Day Saints which is popularly known as the Mormon Church. Because of their faith, Mormons maintain fantastic records. The IGI (International Genealogical Index) is a record of over 121 million names, dating from the 1500s and microfilm equal to four million volumes of about 300 pages each. Many of these records can be located through computer searches. The public is invited to use local Mormon libraries located all over the country, as well as, that in Salt Lake City.
8. Writing Your Family History
Now that you have collected genealogical and historical information, you can write your family history to share with others. You may not find all one-thousand and twenty grandparents in ten generations; however, you may find some interesting stories to share.