95 - Trace your ancestry

Reason for this Goal to trace your ancestry:  We all have a life story that precedes us, which is part of our legacy and who we are, but many of us don’t know what that is.  With the advent of the internet, DNA testing, and on-line information that has been compiled about people, it is now possible to extensively research and find out more about our roots and our prior generations of family.  In connecting with our past, it can give us a greater sense of who we are. 

Following are some methods in how to trace your ancestry:

  • Do all your ground work before searching on-line, starting with yourself and working back through all your records.
  • Interview your parents and grandparents, and take notes.
  • Share your work with your family when they drop by for a visit.
  • Look for documents and records, such as death certificates, marriage records, census records, immigration records, church records, court records, and public libraries.
  • Talk to family members at family reunions, and find out who else may be interested or who has already started doing this.
  • Use the services of one of the hundreds of online websites, such as Ancestry.com or My Heritage.com, with extensive records, including census records.

It is important to stay organized and develop methods of storing and archiving all the information that you will come across.  It’s likely you will need a combination of computer files, filing cabinet folders, and 3-ring binders to organize all your information.  There are even professional websites available, such as www.fileyourpapers.com, to help with this very process.

Some personal reflection

In August 2022, we attended a family reunion in a small northern Ontario mining town 7 1/2 hours away. My mother was raised in Kirkland Lake and we attended a memorial service for my mother's cousin who passed away during the pandemic in 2021. He was a NHL hockey player with a massive legacy and local hall of fame legend.

In preparing for the memorial service, we were sent a spreadsheet with a list of names of people who would be attending. It was difficult for me to understand the relationship of all these people so I downloaded a free family tree maker from myheritage.com and starting adding their names to the database. Before long, I had a good family tree and was feeling much more connected to the people I was about to meet, many for the first time. 

JACKPOT - I was introduced to my 2nd cousin who I've never met before just one year older than me. About 20 years prior, he did a full ancestry / family tree tracing our family roots back through Finland (my mother's parents were born in Finland), going back 8 generations into the 1600 and 1700's. Just today, he sent me a fully documented and traced family genealogy with more than 40 pages of information. This "gift" has literally saved me tens (and possibly hundreds) of hours of work in completing my Goal # 95 of documenting my family ancestry. More importantly, I met a 2nd cousin along with his brother, sister and step-mother whom we will stay in contact with for the rest of our life. 

In retrospect, I wish I would have started this life goal # 95 to trace my ancestry 20 years ago when I was his age (~40). Once you see the family connections to your blood relatives, you develop a deeper sense of your extended family and will be more likely to reach out and meet more of the people in your family tree. It is the older generation of course that knows the most about your family tree and the connections to grand parents, great grand parents, great great grandparents and so on!

I find that attending a funeral or memorial service makes me reflect more about the life I'm living and the difference one can make. 

In addition to spending quality time together driving to this reunion (with my wife Kathy, my mother and sister), I feel like I truly connected with this important goal category of giving back and leaving a legacy!

Me with my mother Gunnell, sister Laura and some of our 2nd cousins meeting in Kirkland Lake for the first time!

Return to giving back/legacy goals.

Last updated: September 13, 2022