Thanks to modern technology and the plethora of family research sites and databases, the average person is able to explore where they came from and delve into their family history. Many people are finding their way back to their first ancestors that stepped foot in the United States and others are even going beyond that, back to the country from which their ancestors came.
In the past, this research was done by book or long hours of searching public records at county and city buildings. Today, the same records are being accessed, but can be done without ever leaving your home. Database searches can be done on birth records, death records, a ship’s passenger list, census records that have been made public, marriage records, immigration records, and military records. All of the records provided are complements of the contributions by individuals, companies, and governments. There are, of course, many other criteria that can be searched as well.
With all of the sites available online, a person can get overwhelmed with choosing the right one. One tip is that there are many free sites available, so it is not necessary to pay for the information. If you are not finding what you are looking for on one site, try another. You might even ask friends or family what sites they’ve used.
You will be amazed at the information that can be found. I’ve personally heard stories about people finding out a great, great grandparent was a totally different race than what they were led to believe or what they family thought their nationality was, someone that found out that an older sibling wasn’t from the same father, and someone that found out the person they thought was their father actually wasn’t. Many people that were adopted have also been able to track down their biological parents or siblings through searches.
This information and these sites are not just useful to a person searching where they came from, but it is also a great tool for historians and genealogists. Historians and genealogists use the information they find for studies and also to write books on historic figures.
Free Informational Sites:
- This link for Ancestry.com will provide census information from 1790-1940. There are also government sites that can provide census information for specific years.: http://www.ancestry.com/cs/us/census-records-overlay?state=&kw=Census+Records&s_kwcid=census+record&gclid=CNWWl–Ci7oCFQZyQgodyRQAAQ&o_xid=21837&o_lid=21837&o_sch=Search
- The World Connect Project will not only provided the user with information, but also allows them to share useful information that they have on the family tree through modifying, linking, and uploading information for future researchers: http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/
- HeritageQuest is a free database; however, searching cannot be done with free reign. A person must get access to free online searching by getting a membership card from a local library. The site includes digital images of the federal census for the years 1790-1930, Revolutionary War pension files, a variety of family history books, and many articles from periodicals, as well as genealogical journals: http://www.heritagequestonline.com/hqoweb/library/do/index
- The Bureau of Land Management, a branch of the U.S. Department of Interior, provides free database searches on Federal land records. As well as providing the information, a user might be able to capture an image of a land title record, depending on the state being searched. A search will also turn up the actual land patent record; the user can then request a certified copy to be sent to them. https://www.blm.gov/ (With the recent government shutdowns, this page is currently unavailable, but will return to a working status when operations continue.)
- WordGenWeb provides databases from around the world. A user searches by a country, province, region, or state and a page will return queries that link to free online searches for that particular area. http://www.worldgenweb.org/
Through genealogy searches, people have uncovered many interesting facts about their family history. Some good, some surprising, and some shocking, but nonetheless, the information is there to be had. Another interesting site that exhibits the work of what people have uncovered is: http://www.geneabios.com/. This site contains genealogy biographies from people that have done their research and are sharing their stories. The site allows the user to search by a surname, name, or location to find a biography. The authors of the biographies often leave their contact information along with their story in hopes that they will discover other family members.
There are shows airing on television that track the family roots of celebrities, there are talk shows that have reunited long lost family members, and compelling books that have been written revealing both heartfelt and shocking stories. There are so many ways to discover where you came from. The data that is available at our fingertips is limitless.