Sunday, June 26, 2016


by Esther Eley Jones

The idea of becoming the family historian may seem a bit overwhelming at first. You might ask, why am I doing this? Can’t someone else do this? The answer is probably, yes, they can, but the family history will become more alive and exciting with you doing the research yourself.  When I started tracing my family’s roots I had very little information to use in my quest. There was a deep longing to know where those roots started: Who are my ancestors? Where did my ancestors come from? How did they get here? When did they get here? Tracing families' roots would be a long, grueling process; however, it could be done by formulating a plan, and following the plan. This plan had to be uncomplicated and simple for it to be completed. How was the process developed?  First, I would began with myself and write my story.  Next, I would gather information about  my father, his mother, and her parents. In order to gather as much information as I could about the lives of my ancestors I would interview family members, and finally. I would learn about genealogy and how to be an expert family historian.   

Rather than the process of gathering information, I began with my story. Yes, my story was worth telling. So I started by asking simple questions and writing down the answers. Where was I born? When was I born? What were my parents’ names? Where did I live? Where did I go to school? Who were my neighbors? Then I thought of different events that went on during my early years. Was I alive during a war? The Vietnam War took place in my early twenties.  Were there any major events that took place during my life? President Kennedy was assassinated during my college years.  How did I feel about these events?   As I asked questions, I began to see the story of my life unfold. This was the beginning of my family history and I went through the same process with my parents. I was now becoming the family historian.

I started my story with myself; the next person was my father. I wrote down everything that I knew about my father. There was a family story about my father's birth. Was this story fact or just as another family story with little truth to it. I had some stories to share about my father so I also wrote those down. Now I was ready to add a new branch to the family tree. I wrote down everything that I knew about my grandmother, her first and last name, and birth date, place of birth, her parents’ names, and her marriage date. I remembered my grandmother’s visits with us so I shared some of those stories.

My grandmother was born in Alabama so I used the internet and researched the city and county and added that information to my research. I also looked for compiled records from previous researchers such as biographies, family histories, or family trees.  The Internet helped me and can help you trace family roots, and locate information about the culture of ancestors, traditions, homeland, and history. A vast amount of knowledge and information is instantly available by the click of a keystroke. I was able to trace my grandmother’s great-grandfather to South Carolina. At the present, I am unable to find information on my grandmother’s great-great-grandfather. However, I continue to search all available resources hoping that I will be able to get a break through. 

I wrote down everything I knew about my ancestors.  Then, I narrowed that process down to one ancestor by choosing a family member about who I wanted to learn more. Other things that I did in my quest for information and knowledge was to seek the help of family members and to find out how much information they could share with me about the family line that I was researching.  Several years before this I asked my mother to give me the names and birth dates of my father’s parents and his four sisters and brother. I had filed that information away in a safe place.  Now was the time to get that sheet that I filed away and start my journey. At this point I had enough information to help me in tracing the roots of my father’s family. I needed to decide whether to research my grandfather’s or my grandmother’s familial lineage. I knew more about my grandmother’s side of the family so I started with her line. Now I needed to gather documentation to confirm the dates and parent-child relationships of each generation. My oldest sister gave me enough information to help fill in some of the gaps on that family line.  Now I was really getting excited because I had enough information to go to census records and conduct a search. Also, I could look for birth records, death records, and expand my search even further by looking for land records, wills, church records, probate records, and military records.

I needed to learn more about genealogy. My desire was to become an expert family historian, so I knew that I had to become involved. The easiest and most enjoyable way to learn more about genealogy was to join a genealogical society. Another way to learn about genealogy is to read basic books about genealogy. There are excellent articles in popular genealogy periodicals such as Ancestry Magazine, Family Tree Magazine, and Heritage Quest Magazine. Other ways to learn about genealogy are take classes, listen to webinars, attend workshops, attend conferences, and lectures at the public library, or take a home study course.  I subscribed to several good genealogy blogs who share teaching articles with their subscribers.  There are several good genealogy blogs, and those blogs are a great way to stay connected to the genealogy world. Sign up for those blogs and you can learn tips from these genealogists. 

In my quest for knowledge of my families’ roots, my reputation as the family historian has been established.  I am enjoying my journey in my quest for knowledge. It is an exciting journey!

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