When I start asking my clients questions about their family background, it always leads to more questions and amazing discoveries as they uncover the historical roots of their own family. They realize they didn’t know they had certain relatives living in places of the country or that were even still alive!
In researching my father’s family stories last summer, I talked to a few family members I had never met before. One was the self-proclaimed family genealogist and had created an extensive family tree. As I looked over the records she sent me, I was astonished to find out that I had several Great Aunt’s and Uncle’s who died in the Holocaust! Though this was a subject I learned in Hebrew School and more intensely in college, I always felt just slightly removed from it. It happened to the Jewish people, yes, but not to anyone in my family. At that moment, the Holocaust became very personal for me.
Though a great Aunt or Uncle might seem like a distant relative, on my Mom’s side of my family, I was fortunate to grow up being close to not one but eight of my great Aunts & Uncles, who were like surrogate grandparents to me. The revelation that this same relationship on my Dad’s side of the family perished in the Holocaust is still hard to comprehend.
Researching your family history can indeed be overwhelming, but there are many websites to help you discover and document your family tree and allow you to share those findings with other family members. Best of all, many of these great resources are free and incredibly easy to use.
Here are two of my favorites:
All of the above sites seem to have elements of LinkedIn or Facebook for your family. My favorite of the above is geni. It immediately makes it easy for you to start building your tree with the information you already know, then allows you to connect with other family members to add what they know.
Sometimes searching records on-line or asking relatives is not enough. Sometimes you need to go to where the records are actually housed. One of the best places to do this is at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, which has extensive genealogical records from all over the world. The center is run by the Mormon Church but is nondenominational and has records for all kinds of religions and nationalities. Closer to home, you can do a passenger search and more extensive genealogy research at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum in New York.
However you decide to begin creating your family tree, have fun with it. Enjoy connecting with relatives you never knew existed and discovering your family history. Once you get started, I guarantee you’ll be hooked!
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