Relatively Speaking: Connect with your ancestors in 2011
By Martha Jones
As we begin the new year, what did you accomplish in 2010 regarding your family tree?
Did you find some new ancestral lines? Did you break through a brick wall that has blocked your research for years? Did you discover some distant cousins across the way? Perhaps these feats are a bit larger than you experienced, perhaps you are just beginning your family research and plan to make great ancestral discoveries in 2011. No matter how much or how little you have accomplished, it is always good to connect with your ancestors.
This past week, I was talking with a newcomer who told me she was working on her genealogy and discovered her great grandmother was nearly six feet in height. She said, "That explains why I am so tall." Yes, those genes were passed down to this very attractive lady. She is learning about her family history and all those lives that make up her ancestry.
I am always fascinated with my ancestors' names. I am named for my maternal grandmother and her father was named Zebedee. Such a nice Biblical name. My mother's great great grandfather was Absalom. Again, another nice Biblical name and I never found either name shortened. My Scottish ancestor who came to South Carolina in 1775 from Inverness was Alexander Bean (MacBean). I can picture this hardy red-haired lad with his young wife, Christiana, sailing to the Americas ready to start a new life.
If you have not researched your family and want to get started, begin with what you know. Make a pedigree chart or family group sheet that has all the information you have on yourself, your parents, and grandparents, etc. It's OK if you don't know much more than names - names are a good start. You can find free chart copies at your local library or online free to download.
Talk with your family, especially the oldest living ones who may be able to give you valuable information. Correspond with your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Family is a great source for finding information where your ancestors were from, names of relatives you didn't know, dates of birth, etc. Somewhere along the way you will discover someone who is interested in helping you gather information or has already done quite a bit of leg work. If you want to find stories about your family and not just names, the best place to find them will be your own relatives. Caveat: Although your relatives mean well, never assume the information they offer you is 100 percent correct. We cannot base our genealogy on the family history according to Aunt Lucy. Pedigree charts and family groups sheets need support. You must gather records to verify the information. Begin collecting vital records for all your family members. These include copies of birth, marriage and death certificates. Remember to cite your sources. Use formats similar to ones you used in high school and college term papers. If you have forgotten, go online and Google "source citations." You may think you will remember where information came from but our memories are so crowded with information, we never do. After filling in the basic family history sheets, go to the U.S. Federal Census records. Ancestry.com is an excellent subscription resource but usually free at your local library. Census records are one of the easiest ways to find names and places for your family.
Happy Researching in 2011.
E-mail genealogy queries to mjones@vi cad.com. VCGS members will research queries requiring extensive study.