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Ancestry.com is sponsoring Season 2 of NBC's Who Do You Think You Are? and helping the celebrities in the show discover their family stories. We're here to help you too — every step of the way.

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“For years I searched for my grandfather’s family in New York. All I knew was that Grandpa came from a wealthy New York family and that he had left home to become a jockey and been disowned.

This past week I connected with someone else who was researching the family on Ancestry.com. I now know who my
great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents were, that my grandpa had two siblings and that my mother was named for her grandmother and aunt. What a wonderful discovery after 20 years of searching.”

- Elizabeth Ann (Ragsdale) Bromell-Franklin
Ancestry.com member
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

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The case of the missing ancestor.

In Episode 4 of Who Do You Think You Are? Kim Cattrall set out to discover what happened to her maternal grandfather after he disappeared 70 years ago, leaving his wife and daughters on their own in Depression-era Liverpool. Her journey started with a newspaper clipping, which led her to a marriage certificate proving her grandfather had started a new family. Kim then tracked down relatives from the second family to help her mother gain closure. Miss the episode? Watch it on NBC.com.

Three steps to finding an ancestor you know very little about:

Step 1: Talk to your relatives. Find out if they have wedding announcements, obituaries, military medals, photos or other memorabilia featuring names and dates that can help you refine your search on Ancestry.com. Also listen to family stories. They may contain similar information that helps put your ancestor in a specific time and place in history.

Step 2: See what others have discovered. Search family trees to find out what other Ancestry.com members may have learned about your ancestor. When you find a tree you want to know more about, click on “Tree Owner” to send a private message to the person who created it. You might just end up connecting with a distant cousin. And when you’re viewing a record on Ancestry.com, check the Member Connect box for links to other members who may be researching your ancestor.

Step 3: Look for immediate family. Lost your great-grandfather’s trail? Try researching one of his siblings or in-laws. These “collateral relatives” may have mentioned him in obituaries or wills, captured his image in photos or even shared their home with him, which could be revealed in a census record or city directory. Also look for ancestors listed as witnesses on a friend or neighbor’s naturalization papers or other legal documents.

Watch and Learn

Find Clues in Recent History

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And sign up for our FREE online class,
First Steps 2: Tips for Successful Searches, which takes place live on February 28th.

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Try searching the following collections to learn about recent generations of family.

World War II draft registration: A child may be listed as the nearest relative in a 4th registration draft card, which registered men between the ages 45 to 64.

Social Security Death Index: Check the deceased person’s address against the U.S. Public Records Index and city directories. The person may have been living with or near family members.

Obituaries: Obituaries often mention children, grandchildren and other relatives, plus their hometowns. Check obituaries for your ancestor’s siblings too.

Birth and marriage indexes: Look for birth indexes and follow females through marriage indexes, which contain maiden names.