Family Tree Anniversaries — Making Your History
by Nicki Harper
An anniversary is a big event in any family’s history. You can use genealogy to make every anniversary even more meaningful. And, you can take advantage of the friends and relatives who gather to celebrate in order to make your genealogy a more meaningful family history.
You don’t need to spend any money to get started with your genealogy. You’ll build a family tree. Imagine your parents as the trunk of your family tree. Each of their children is a branch. Each grandchild is a twig on their parents’ branch. And trees also have roots. Your parents’ parents are roots under the family tree.
You probably already have all the information you need to make a family tree poster for an anniversary party (it’s a great gift, too). At the party, you can ask each guest to write a memory of the honored couple. You can find free programs on the Internet that let you record the information for your family tree—and you can add those memories. Believe me, your grandchildren and great-grandchildren will thank you for those glimpses.
Making your family tree may well ignite a spark of curiosity. Do you know your great-grandparents names? Their parents? With a lot of help from other researchers, I was able to trace part of my family back to the 1600’s. I learned that the people I thought were ordinary farmers actually sailed clipper ships to China—one great-grandfather was born in Brazil, en route to the Orient. I found miners in both England and Sweden. I learned that one relative was a noted fire chief, another a professional baseball player.
How do you find all this fascinating information? It’s easy to begin online—and a great deal of information is yours for the asking. As with everything on the Internet, you will find both the true and the false. Be sure to verify with public records—don’t take an existing family tree as the Gospel truth, especially if it links to royalty or goes back to Adam. As you do your own research, record the source of each piece of information.
Once you know your grandparents’ dates and places of birth, I recommend that you start here. Enter each name in the search engine and see what you find. You may also be directed you to mailing lists for each country, and for counties or provinces within the country. Be sure to search the list for references to your last name, and then browse a bit. There are mailing lists for most surnames. Once you join the list (free), you can ask questions. Put the surname you are asking about in the subject line—it’s good mailing list etiquette. Let people know that you are new to genealogy—you’ll find the others on the list are very helpful in pointing out additional websites with information you can use. You may well connect with a distant cousin who is willing to share their research.
Most counties have a website with genealogical resources and you will find them very valuable. Just google the county, state +genealogy.
You will eventually want to find cemetery records, obituaries and other information that is not online. You can pay a researcher to find it for you, ask for a lookup on a mailing list, or write to the cemetery or newspaper itself. Local libraries are often willing to find the information for you for a small fee.
And no matter how much you learn, there will be those unanswered questions. Why did my ancestors emigrate? How did they meet and fall in love? If only your ancestors had written short memories on their anniversaries.