Why Study Your Genealogy?

by Shari Hearn

You never met them, but without them you wouldn’t be here. They’re your ancestors; those long-forgotten people whose lives were so different, yet so similar, to yours today.

Why study these people who are long gone and buried? Well, think about it. If just one of the thousands of your direct ancestors didn’t exist, you wouldn’t either. If your great-great-great-great-great-grandmother never met your great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, your significant other would never have met you because, well, you wouldn’t be alive.

Besides honoring the significance of your ancestors, studying your family’s genealogy can just be plain fascinating. There are so many things you can learn, such as why you or your parents grew up on one location or another. For example, if one of your ancestors was a Hessian soldier used by the British to fight the American colonists, you might find some relatives living in Pennsylvania, which had a large population of German-Americans, many of them Hessian soldiers who deserted the British and later fought for the Americans. Many of their descendants later moved to Ohio.

You can also learn why certain first names pop up in your family tree or even your family’s original surname before it was Americanized. Many names were not easy to pronounce by immigration officials, who changed surnames on documents as immigrants were processed. Finding your true surname can also be a clue as to your ancestors’ occupations, as many surnames were taken according to the person’s livelihood, such as Tanner, Baker, etc.

Learning about your family’s genealogy can also aid in learning about medical conditions which may be passed on genetically. Did your ancestors have heart conditions? Were they prone to cancer? Was there a large incidence of auto-immune disorders in your distant past? How can you learn about medical conditions of those long past? Sometimes stories are passed through generations, but, in the absence of that, you can research death notices in old papers, which often times detailed the cause of death. Knowing the cause of death of your ancestors can help you make decisions about your health today. If there is a preponderance of certain cancers in your family’s past, you might want to be more mindful of your eating or smoking habits. Perhaps this knowledge would compel you to participate in genetic testing.

How do you get started in genealogy research? Luckily there are numerous avenues on which to begin. If your community has a genealogy library or association, you could start by joining a group or visiting their offices. Often times genealogy associations have numerous research materials to aid in your search. Southern California has an excellent genealogy group, the Southern California Genealogical Society, located in Burbank (818-843-7247). You can visit their library, as well as attend the yearly “Genealogy Jamboree” sponsored by them. In fact, if you go to your favorite search engine and put in “genealogy jamboree” you’ll find other genealogy jamborees located around the country. The Jamborees are great because you can discover different genealogy groups in your area, as well as purchase the latest genealogy publications and software.

The internet, of course, is also a place where genealogy enthusiasts can find a treasure trove of information, either through access to research materials, or through connecting with distant relatives through genealogy forums.

Ancestry DNA is also a tool which can help the budding genealogist. Ancestry DNA, or genetic genealogy, is simply discovering your ancestor’s origins by testing your DNA, which is performed with a cotton swab inside your cheek. With these tests you can discover what part of Africa from which your ancestors originated; what Irish clan your ancestors belonged to; if you have any Native American ancestry.

Once you get started with genealogy research you will get hooked. Not only will you be able to discover things about your ancestors, but you may find you can discover more about yourself as well.

Shari Hearn is a writer and creator of DNA Paternity Testing, where you can learn all about Genetic Genealogy.

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Genealogy How-To Book Store

It is a good idea to  study and look through one or several  good genealogy how-to books that are on the market.

Note: All prices in US Dollars
Genealogy Books

Genealogy Books

AC Guidebook Ancetry.comAncestry.com Guidebook This guidebook offers step-by-step instructions to get through the process of discovering family history. A soft-cover publication that includes genealogy advice, worksheets and layout ideas. 40 pages
Beyond the Family Tree: A 21st-century Guide to Exploring Your Roots and Creating Connectionsby Worick, Jennifer
Whether you have a great relationship with your family or are separated by distance or differences, there is so much more to learn about one another. Here is a handbook on how to forge better family relation­ships by initiating more interesting conversations and creating an online means of communication. With more than 1,000 insightful questions, the book helps the reader create a dialogue during family gatherings or one-on-one get-togethers. The book then shows how to share that information with the rest of the family (via private YouTube accounts, WIKIs, websites, e-mails, chat groups, and other social media outlets) so a family can create a living history and a place where a current, vibrant dialogue can continue.
Climb The Family Tree, Jesse Bear!Climb The Family Tree, Jesse Bear! Jessie Bear meets his extended family at a reunion and learns where he fits among his relatives, and his family's past and present.
Climbing Your Family Tree: Online and Off-Line Genealogy for KidsClimbing Your Family Tree: Online and Off-Line Genealogy for Kids Author: Haley, Alex Robinson, Tim Wolfman, Ira Publisher: Workman Publishing Format:Softcover Slip into the roles of sleuth, geographer, researcher, writer, pen pal, and puzzle solver, and embark on a journey through your family heritage. Packed with detailed information on using the Internet - the tool that has completely transformed genealogy - Climbing Your Family Tree is a complete guide for the ancestor detector, both off- and online. It explains how to conduct an interview; how to track down ships' manifests, naturalization records, birth and marriage certificates; how to decipher old-fashioned handwriting and interpret names; how to compile a family tree, assemble a scrapbook, and more. Includes information for special situations, such as adoptees, nontraditional families, and recent immigrants. Your story is out there - here are the tools to find it.
Finding Your Rootsby John Stewart, Jeane Eddy Westin, 
Paperback

Westin uses a step-by-step method, complete with sample forms and family questionnaires, to gather information. For anyone interested in checking back even one generation, this book will be devoured--especially once readers see how much fun tracking long-lost relatives can be.
When searching family trees, individuals often can't get past the forest of names and information thrown at them. Now, drawing on her own experiences (and revealing her own mistakes for u
Genealogy 101by Barbara Renick
Paperback
National Genealogical Society Guides
Genealogy 101 is the first book to read when you want to discover who your ancestors were, where they lived, and what they did.
This practical guide to basic principles of family research gives you step-by-step instructions to:
-Get started on your family tree with a straightforward and fun process;
-Clarify your goals and decide what you want to learn first;
-Assemble information needed to identify your ancestors;
-Keep your findings organized;
-Choose the best genealogy software:
-Find your ancestors in other countries;
-Preserve your family's history and heritage
Genealogy Online (7th Edition)Genealogy Online (7th Edition) Find your roots! This effective hands-on resource explores the vast world of ancestry-related networks, Web sites, and online services, explaining which ones best suit your purposes. Learn to organize your search, where to begin, where to go on the Web, and how to use chat rooms, mailing lists, and use the net effectively
Genealogy Online for DummiesGenealogy Online for Dummies Author(s): Helm, April Leigh Helm, Matthew The Helms have put together an excellent introductory guide to doing genealogical research online. They've avoided the usual trap of organizing their book by resources, which may be easy for the author but makes it harder on the user. So instead of devoting this chapter to useful Web sites, that chapter to valuable newsgroups, and so forth, they've organized the book in a way closer to the way you'd organize good family research.
Planting Your Family Tree Onlineby Cyndi Howells
Paperback
National Genealogical Society Guides

Planting Your Family Tree Online is designed to take you step-by-step through the process of
creating a genealogy Web site.
When people begin their genealogical adventure, they usually interview elderly members of the family and contact other family members. The next step is usually one of organization of the information collected. The third step is usually to share this information with other family members, traditionally by publishing research in a book. However, a family Web site has numerous advantages:

  • It is interactive so others can contribute their stories and pictures.
  • It will help you find long-
Shaking the Family TreeAs a historian, Buzzy Jackson thought she knew the answers to these simple questions—that is, until she took a look at her scrawny family tree. With a name like Jackson (the twentieth most common American surname), she knew she must have more relatives and more family history out there, somewhere. Her first visit to the Boulder Genealogy Society brought her more questions than answers . . . but it also gave her a tantalizing peek into the fascinating (and enormous) community of family-tree huggers and after-hours Alex Haleys.
The Name BookThe Name Book What's in a name? This ingenious new reference gathers thousands upon thousands of names for all manner of objects, creatures, places, people, sports, cars, brands, and much, much more. THE NAME BOOK is the ultimate reference. It tells you what something is called or helps you think of what to call it
The Oral History WorkshopCollect and Celebrate the Life Stories of Your Family and Friends
We all know that we should ask now, before it's too late, before the stories are gone forever. But knowing and doing are two different things.Cynthia Hart, author of Cynthia Hart's Scrapbook Workshop, shows exactly how to collect, record, share, and preserve a family member's or a friend's oral history in this practical and inspirational guide. The Oral History Workshop breaks down what too often feels like an overwhelming project into a series of easily manageable steps: how to prepare for an interview; how to become a better listener; why there's always more beneath the surface and the questions to ask
The Really, Really, Really Easy Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your Family Tree Using Your ComputerThe Really, Really, Really Easy Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your Family Tree Using Your Computer: For Absolute Beginners of All Ages Gavin Hoole (Author), Cheryl Smith (Author) “Planting” and growing a family tree is simple with this supereasy guide. It explains where to start this journey of discovery; how to record the information you uncover; how to download and use free forms, charts, and genealogy computer software; and how to search Internet resources and exchange information online. Screen shots guide readers every step of the way, so they can match what they see in the book to what they see on their computer.
Tracing Your Family HistoryTracing Your Family History Author: Anthony Adolph Publisher: Collins Format: Hardcover Firmly practical in its approach yet entertaining in its style, this reference guide is the indispensable companion for all who are seeking a reliable, one-source volume to use while tracking down their family origins. The book gives comprehensive guidance on the variety of governmental, religious, and more obsure records available, and also contains highly useful advice on how to expand and reinvigorate a search when the trail runs cold. Tips on using the Internet as both a starting point and a supplement to more traditional searches are especially useful and timesaving.
Tracing Your Family HistoryTracing Your Family Tree Author: Chater, Kathy Trying to find out about your lineage can be a daunting task. Where do you start? This invaluable reference work will answer all your questions and more. It takes you step-by-step through the whole process, from interviewing living relatives to identifying uniforms from old photographs, to looking at old wills and church records
Tracing Your Family History

Who am I? Where did I come from? Tracing Your Family History: A Beginner's Guide to Genealogy is a resource book that provides guidance and tips on genealogical research. This book does not drown you in complex instructions or suggestions that are hard to follow through on. Instead, you learn the key steps and proven strategies of tracing family roots. Here is a closer look at the book's contents:

  • Answers to basic questions about genealogical research.
  • Suggestions for finding resources and tracking down crucial information, including tips on recognizing valuable information that might be right under your own roof.
  • The lowdown on genealogy computer programs, and a guide to making the power of Internet work for you.
  • Charts and forms that make it easy to organize your results and move to the next step.

The more you find out about your ancestors, the more you will want to learn. T

Tracing Your Family History ( Teach Yourself)Tracing Your Family History ( Teach Yourself) A practical and comprehensive guide to genealogy. It covers everything you need to trace your family's history, from planning your research to interviewing your relatives effectively, and gives detailed guidance on finding and using the right basic sources for tracing births, marriages and deaths, pointing you in the direction of other linked records to help build the picture of your family's past
Tracing Your Family TreeTracing Your Family Tree Author: Chater, Kathy Trying to find out about your lineage can be a daunting task. Where do you start? This invaluable reference work will answer all your questions and more. It takes you step-by-step through the whole process, from interviewing living relatives to identifying uniforms from old photographs, to looking at old wills and church records
Unlocking Your Genetic Historyby Thomas Shawker
Paperback
National Genealogical Society Guides
A Step-by-Step Guide to Discovering Your Family's Medical and Genetic Heritage
From the Publisher
If Gilda Radner, one of the original cast of Saturday Night Live, had known of her family's medical pedigree and her ethnic heritage, she possibly could have prevented her death from ovarian cancer, the silent killer that tragically took her life at the age of 42. Cancer, mental illness, diabetes, and heart disease all have a hereditary component. Unlocking Your Genetic History explains how to integrate a family health history into your genealogy, how to get the appropriate medical information and analyze it, and how to design a medical pedigree in order to detect the genetic influence on your family's health. Early awareness, identification,
Who Do You Think You Are?Who Do You Think You Are?: The Essential Guide to Tracing Your Family History Author: Smolenyak, Megan Publisher: Viking Adult Format:Hardcover The ground-breaking NBC series Who Do You Think You Are? takes seven of America's best-loved celebrities - from Lisa Kudrow to Susan Sarandon - on an emotional journey to trace their family history and discover who they really are. The revelations are sometimes shocking, sometimes heartbreaking, and always fascinating. With the Who Do You Think You Are? companion guide, you will learn how to chart your own journey into your past and discover the treasures hidden in your family tree. Featuring step-by-step instructions from one of America's top genealogical researchers, Who Do You Think You Are? covers everything a beginner needs to know to start digging into their roots.

Bargain Books are new, unread books that the publisher sells-off in volume to reduce excess inventory. Sometimes the publisher printed too many copies, in other cases bookstores purchased too many copies and have returned them to the publisher for credit. The books therefore have been handled a few times but are still in excellent condition. The publisher may place a mark on the edge of the book to identify it as a Bargain Book. This ensures the book will never get returned to the publisher for credit. In most cases the mark is a small line or dot, however sometimes it is large.

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