Texas Living

Unearthing Your Family Roots

By Haley Shapley 12.1.16

If you’ve ever wanted to be a detective, dabbling in genealogy might just be the thing for you. There are clues to be uncovered, leads to be followed up on, witnesses to interview, and mysteries to be solved. But instead of collecting the evidence to make an arrest, you’ll use it to build your family tree and find out more about your roots. Follow this trail:

Begin Your Sleuthing

Work Backward. Begin in the present. Start with everything you know for sure, and then move back in time from there. Keep in mind that any lapses in time — or skipping generations — can lead to misinformation, so don’t let your trail go cold. 

Ask Questions. How many of us wish we’d asked more questions of our grandparents or great-grandparents when we had the chance? Now’s the perfect time to sit down with relatives to find out more about their history. Make a voice or video recording of your conversations for reference. Ask questions like: 

  • Where did you grow up, and what was your childhood like?
  • What stories do you remember being told about older generations?
  • Do you know any names and birthplaces of older generations?
  • Do you have any family records, letters, or pictures?

Keep Track. In any genealogical research, you’re bound to run into dead ends. You’ll want to document these, along with your successful searches, so you don’t go back and do the work all over again down the road.

Know What You’re Looking For. Do you want to learn about your mom’s great-uncle rumored to be an outlaw in the Wild West? Or have you always wondered where your dad’s side of the family emigrated from? Genealogy research can be overwhelming and take you in many different directions, so remember what you’re doing this for as you work out one piece of the puzzle at a time. 

Use Resources

Thanks to the internet, researching the lives of those who came before us is easier than ever. These websites can aid your search:

Ancestry.com: The largest online genealogy resource, Ancestry.com has 16 billion historical records and 70 million family trees, which gives you a great jumping-off point. You can also purchase the AncestryDNA test to uncover your ethnic mix and possibly find relatives you never knew you had. Membership begins at $19.99 (monthly) or $99 (6 months) for U.S. records; the DNA test is $99.

Archives.com: Known for being user-friendly, Archives allows you to comb through everything from census and military records to yearbooks and newspapers. Certain features are free, such as searching the old U.S. censuses, while full access is $9.99 a month.

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission offers a long list of additional resources that may help you in your quest to piece together your genealogy. Let the investigation begin!

Fancy yourself a detective? See how you fare with these family games

© 2016 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance