Advertisement
spending

6 Things You Must Know About Tracing Your Roots

Use online tools and services to fill out the branches of your family tree.

1. It’s a family affair. The pop­ularity of the PBS series Finding Your Roots, which uncovers celebrities’ family histories, has spurred in­terest in genealogy. If you want to learn more about your background, “start with what you know about yourself,” says Catherine Desmarais, vice president of the Association of Professional Genealogists. Then begin interviewing relatives. As you work backward to your grandparents and great-grandparents, track down as many vital records, such as birth, marriage and death certificates, as you can find.

2. Focus your search. Questions such as “Where was my great-grandfather born?” will help you identify the documents you need to find. A great deal of starter material is available free. Cyndi’s List and Linkpendium categorize links to genealogical resources. FamilySearch allows you to search millions of digitized records. Also check the National Archives’ online Archives Library Information Center under “Genealogy.”

Advertisement - Article continues below

3. Pay to dive deeper. Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com and other genealogical websites let you search massive stores of historical records and connect you with far-flung relatives. (A monthly subscription to Ancestry costs $20 to $45, depending on your level of access.) Test out different sites that offer free trials, and be selective based on which site matches your needs. For example, Fold3.com specializes in military records. Findmypast.com is heavy on Irish and United Kingdom content. Swedish descendants can poke around ArkivDigital.net. There are dedicated sites for those of Jewish and African-American descent as well. But keep in mind that many records are not available online. “Sometimes the only place to go is a courthouse down a winding country road,” says Jordan Jones, president of the National Genealogical Society.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

4. Enlist science. When paper research stalls, a DNA test can reveal your ethnic makeup and find additional relatives by matching your DNA to others in a site’s database; for adoptees, DNA may be the only starting point. You can request a kit through Ancestry ($99), Family Tree DNA (starting at $99) and 23andMe ($199).

Advertisement - Article continues below

5. Keep track of your research. Many amateur genealogists use RootsMagic.com software (the basic version is free; the full version costs $30). Ancestry, MyHeritage and other archival sites can also help you build a family tree. Watch out for versions that do not allow you to note conflicting evidence. Or, says Jones, enter your findings in Word or Excel.

6. If you hit a wall . . . Hiring a county clerk to pull a record for you could cost as little as $10 plus postage. Or you may want to hire a professional genealogist, who can help you interpret obscure documents or pick up the trail when records get tough to track down. Most genealogists charge $50 to $75 per hour (although the hourly rate can range from $40 to $100, depending on the location and the complexity of the project). To find a researcher, go to the Association of Professional Genealogists (www.apgen.org) or the Board for Certification of Genealogists (www.bcgcertification.org). For legal searches, such as tracking down heirs, contact the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy (www.forensicgenealogists.org).

See Also: Programs That Help Seniors and Children

Advertisement

Most Popular

HSAs Get Even Better
Financial Planning

HSAs Get Even Better

Workers have more options with flexible spending accounts, too.
July 2, 2020
Find a Great Place to Retire
happy retirement

Find a Great Place to Retire

Our cities provide plenty of space to spread out without skimping on health care or other amenities.
July 2, 2020
What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2020 vs. 2019?
tax brackets

What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2020 vs. 2019?

The IRS unveiled the 2020 tax brackets, and it's never too early to start planning to minimize your future tax bill.
June 20, 2020

Recommended

Sales Tax Holidays in 2020
state tax

Sales Tax Holidays in 2020

Sixteen states are having sales tax holidays this year. If you plan your shopping around these tax-free periods, you can save big on back-to-school cl…
July 1, 2020
For Financially Responsible Kids, Do NOT Do These 3 Things
family savings

For Financially Responsible Kids, Do NOT Do These 3 Things

The key to putting your kids on the right financial path can be boiled down into one sentence.
July 1, 2020
10 Tax Breaks for the Middle Class
tax deductions

10 Tax Breaks for the Middle Class

Tax breaks aren't just for the rich. There are plenty of them that are only available to middle- and low-income Americans.
June 30, 2020
13 Luxury Goods That Are Cheaper at Costco
spending

13 Luxury Goods That Are Cheaper at Costco

You could be missing out on huge savings: Costco sells a limited selection of luxury goods at discounted prices, both in-store and online.
June 27, 2020