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The History of Us

By Bryan Goodland

In May, we all take time to remember our mothers. Whether they are still with us or have passed on, it’s important to remember the spirit and share the stories of these women. Keeping family histories is just one great way to pass on stories to the next generation.

There are a variety of ways to gather family histories, from high-tech online searches to good old-fashioned research techniques. If you are looking for a place to get started, here are some tips to get you going in the right direction.

Oral traditions: The easiest way to gather information is to simply talk to your relatives. Start with your mother and grandmother and ask them about their childhoods. Where did they live? Where were their parents from? Where did they go to school or church? Make sure you record these conversations or take really good notes. Every nugget of information they give you is a piece of the puzzle to your family history.

Search for clues: Try to find old photographs, maps, memorabilia, collectibles, tickets to games, etc. Whether it’s an old trunk full of letters or knick-knacks from a World’s fair, family collections can give you clues to where people come from. Don’t be shy about asking that great-aunt if you can look through the boxes in her attic; it might just have the clue you are looking for.

Turn to social media: Connect with family online and tell them what you are doing. Their connections may be related, and you can cull information from those resources. You might even be able to connect and eventually visit relatives around the world.

Do DNA testing: DNA testing has grown in popularity and has also been significantly reduced in cost. There are a wide variety of companies that offer the service, 23andMe DNA Ancestry, AncestryDNA, Helix National Geographic DNA Test Kit, and a host of others. The basic premise is that your DNA will reveal regions of the world that your ancestors came from and can even help identify living relatives. Some may offer a health addition that can help you see if you are predisposed to any diseases. If you just want to trace family lineage, these kits can aid in your research. Keep in mind that these tests are not 100% accurate, but they can help narrow things down and give you additional clues as to where you are from. Since we are honoring our mothers this month, you can trace the mitochondrial side of the tree, which will trace the DNA through the female familial line.

Conduct research: When it comes right down to it, tracing your family tree involves research. The good old looking through newspapers and death certificates kind of work. There are several paid options out there like, but there are also some excellent free resources as well.

Utilize online resources: The following sources can help you with your search:



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