Tracking your ancestors is a highly worthwhile endeavour and one that can not only prove to be highly fascinating from a historical point of view, but also an enlightening way to learn more about yourself. When you learn where your ancestors came from this tells you how your lineage travelled across the world and shows you how you actually have blood from many different nationalities. You might think of yourself as being ‘all American’ but who knows – you might have once had relatives in Germany or Poland which could explain aspects of your personality or show them in a whole new light. Perhaps it could explain why you have such broad shoulders or have always been attracted to a certain kind of countryside? It’s a brilliant way to learn more about yourself and to instantly feel more mysterious and interesting. And once you know you have a particular heritage it’s also a great excuse for a holiday…
If you are likely to have ancestors from anywhere, then Europe is a pretty good bet. That’s because Europe has been home to so many huge empires which spread around the world from the Romans to the Celts to the Vikings to the British. Combine this with the fact that all Americans originally came from Britain apart from the Native Americans and you are left with a very high chance of some European blood.
But how do you go about tracing this heritage and finding your Ancestors from Europe? Fortunately there are a number of ways you can explore this fascinating possibility.
The first and easiest option even if it is a little unadventurous and potentially expensive is to simply try using a professional service to trace your family tree. These should be able to find you relatives from anywhere around the world and fill you in on details such as their professions, who they married and how and when they died. You can find a lot of these services online, or if you are really serious you might decide to hire someone face to face instead.
There are limits to what these services can do, and if your family moved around a lot it may be that they aren’t able to trace them back all the way. However for the most part this will at least serve as a good starting point for you to continue your travels.
Look Up Records
From there you will probably want to start taking matters into your own hands, and one way to do this is to look up records of your surname in the areas where you knew them to live. You can do this online for the most part or alternatively by requesting birth, death and marriage certificates. If you lose track of your line at any point then try to think logically about why this might have been and to look for other clues – research the origins of your name and read about the local history in those areas.
Now comes that excuse to travel I mentioned – if you think you’ve found a lead then you can chase this up by visiting the area where you believe some of your family to have come from which will allow you to look for more clues and to find points of interest such as the church where they might have gotten married or the schools they might have gone to. If nothing else this can help you to really relate to the history you’re learning rather than just reading about it.
Another great option available to many of us is simply to chat with our older relatives. If your grandparents have been around for a long time for instance then there’s a good chance they might actually know a fair deal about where your family came from and what your ancestors were like. Again this can serve as a great starting point for your investigation so don’t squander this great resource.