If you haven’t already discovered it, I’d like to turn your attention to ancestry.com. It is an absolutely fantastic and invaluable resource for finding out more than you could ever imagine about your family history and genealogy. My dad spent some time a number of years ago visiting libraries and family history centers and found a fair amount of information, but in about 3 days of work online I was able to trace our family back to the twelfth century! It’s a little expensive if you want to subscribe for a year, but I think they have a free 3 day trial that you can use, and then everything that you find is still accessible (for free) after your trial period is up. I suggest compiling everything you already know about your family before you start your free trial, just so that you can use those three days to their maximum potential. You can find draft records, census records (the original scans, not just the info that someone has put into a computer for you to find), and even pictures if you’re lucky. You can even network with other people’s family trees and instantly find 5 generations with the click of a button! The part that is the most fun (and I think this part is always free) are the discussion boards. You can search by last name and find other people with your last name, and see what ancestors they’re looking for and share info.

I’ve begun to compile a book with a page (or more as needed) for each person in our family tree. My mom’s family had a book, and my husband’s distant relatives have compiled something, so I’m working on combining all of the pertinent information into one book that we can give to our kids someday. We want them to know who their great great great great grandfather was and how he fought in the 99th Indiana Volunteer Regiment for the Union Army. It’s also fun to go way back and see that you are related to kings and queens of England and France (when you get that far back it’s generally not provable, but still fun). Here’s the page for my great great grandmother, Lucia Elizabeth Newton:

Researching your family history is also a great way to give honor to your parents and grandparents. Asking them about and recording stories of their childhood, their service in the military, etc., is a great way of telling them that you’re interested in what they have to say and that you appreciate everything they’ve done. Compiling, printing, and framing an artistic family tree would also be (I think) a great gift to your parents. I’ve also enjoyed researching my husband’s family and the name that I took when I married him. It’s another way of saying that ‘his people are my people’.


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