No affiliate links were used in this post. All opinions are my own.
When I began ancestry, I found it challenging to locate sources for all the information I’d discovered. I’d signed up for the free trial on ancestry.ca, and immediately I was linked with family trees of other people who had common ancestors. There was an option to automatically add their family member to my tree if they suspected a match, and it made the search much easier. Problem is, a lot of the time there’s no definitive proof that the person they are portraying is actually the person you are looking for.
That’s where the forums and direct messaging come in. In addition to paper trails and concrete evidence like census records and certificates, personal communication with descendants of the ancestors you’re searching for may add valuable information not found in the archives. I’ve met around ten separate people from both sides of my own personal tree as well as my husband’s lineage, who were able to provide me with confirmation on my discoveries. They held stories, photographs, personal documents and artifacts to help describe the lives of our ancestors in great detail.
All of these connections were formed online. I have yet to meet one of them in person, even if we live within a similar geographic location. They have pointed me into areas of research that I wouldn’t have been able to discover on my own. Most recently, I had a woman contact me who described a trip she had made to Nova Scotia. She was able to tell me about a historian she met who pointed her exactly where she wanted to go in order to track down the properties our ancestors lived and worked more than one hundred years ago. This information is valuable, and I wouldn’t have been able to find records dictating exactly the areas to which she described.
Another person I talked to was able to send me a portrait of my husband’s second great grandparents, who passed away in the late 1800s. Without the connection to this person, I would not have had access to the portrait. He has the original portrait hanging in his home, but he was able to scan it and send it to me. My father in law had never even seen it, and he was in awe.
Another person I was in contact with was able to point me in the direction of finding my great-grandfather’s name on my mother’s paternal side. It turns out that when he immigrated to Latin America from France, he had his name legally changed in order to sound more Spanish instead of French. There was no documentation of him with his Spanish name, but there was a paper trail with his French ancestry. This opened up an entire world for me to discover with the French family I never knew I had.
These connections are vital to discovering more about your family heritage. In order to find them, you have to be open to speaking with random strangers from all over the world. I have made connections across North America, Europe, South America and even as far as Australia. All of their goals are the same as mine: to discover where they have come from.
How can YOU accomplish these discoveries?
Join websites like Ancestry, Family Search and My Heritage (comparisons of all of these websites can be found here). These websites are FREE to join, and they have forums that are free to communicate with other members on. Ancestry in particular organizes their forums so you can search by last name of your relatives. Also, you’re able to post an advertisement looking for information about your own family as well and hopefully someone will have some information to offer! Family Search is a free search, and although their content is limited you can find some discoveries that may lead to more information on forums.
Googling last names can also be a way to find people who have information. My Scottish heritage led me to discover that one of my great grandfather’s was actually the chief of a Scottish clan whose origins were on the Isle of Skye. From there, I discovered a Facebook group that other descendants of members of the clan had created. It’s a valuable resource to see the experiences other members had when traveling to the original land looking for information about their past. Because of this, I am now in communication with over a hundred people who are searching for the same information that I am which puts my odds of discovery in a much higher threshold.
The journey into your past is exciting but it can be frustrating and time consuming. Using the resources offered by these genealogical websites and connections with people around the world should help you narrow down the direct lineage you descended from. It’s well worth the battle to discover your history!