We're helping celebrities discover their stories in the new season of Who Do You Think You Are? on NBC. And we're here to help you too — every step of the way.
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“Who Do You Think You Are? is one of the best series on television. Watching it, I realized that historical events were something I'd neglected to consider in my own family tree.
By revisiting history, I've discovered so many new facts about my relatives. They were in the Civil War and on the Mayflower. Some were even victims of the Salem witchcraft trials.
The show has brought another dimension to my family tree, which now contains much more than just names and dates.”
- Marlena Hunt-Coelho
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Imagine finding actual photos of two ancestors who fought in the Civil War. It happened in the spectacular season premiere of Who Do You Think You Are? Through military records, obituaries, censuses — even a statue in the Tennessee State Capitol — we discovered the amazing stories of ancestors who helped break down barriers and forge new ground in history. Missed the episode? Watch it on NBC.com.
Step 1: Decide what "trailblazer" means to you. Is it a soldier who fought to end slavery and won? An immigrant mother who made sure all her children finished high school? Start identifying ancestors who made an impact by creating timelines of life events. Search U.S. Censuses for help filling in birth dates, marriage details, residence changes, occupations and more.
Step 2: Compare notes with history. Add key dates, events and locations in history to your timeline. Make note of wars, movements like women's suffrage and the struggle for civil rights, plus local events such as the opening of an integrated school. Do your ancestors seem likely to have joined in? Ask family members to share photos, diplomas, announcements and other keepsakes and inspect those for clues too.
Step 3: Keep following that trail. Search historical newspapers for military announcements or articles about happenings in an ancestor's hometown. You could find a family member mentioned by name or even hidden in a published photo.
Revisit previous census finds too, as the 1910 U.S. Census mentions Civil War military service, the 1930 U.S. Census includes service in other conflicts and every U.S. Census since 1850 includes occupations. Finally, listen to family stories, which are not only fascinating, but can also help you understand how your ancestors changed history.
Learn the best way to find answers about your ancestors in the billions of historical records on Ancestry.com.
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First Steps: Getting Started on Ancestry.com
From 1850 on, these records include occupations and much more. And the 1870 U.S. Census was the first to list emancipated slaves by name.
Learn about military service during the Civil War and other conflicts.
Find names, birthplaces, children, occupations, awards, final resting places and more.