Back to School with a New Perspective
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Whether you’re teaching in the classroom or through remote learning this school year, Ancestry® is providing free resources to inspire educators with new ways to engage students to make this school year a little easier.

Lifestyle journalist and author Amy E. Goodman partnered with Ancestry to write about her family’s experience using Ancestry and her tips for the upcoming school year.

“It’s back to school! This time of year reminds me of new school supplies, refreshed minds and a whole new perspective for the year to come!

As a multiracial child, I’d return to school after a long summer and lots of growing looking…very different. With a first-generation Japanese American mother and a White Oregonian father, I spent my childhood saddling my parents’ physiology like a trickster cowboy: at times I looked more Japanese, other times my fair hair and light eyes had me mirroring my dad. People constantly questioned my ethnicity, and I spent lots of time on the playground dodging questions about my family history.

With Ancestry giving me a subscription so I could build my family tree, excitement swelled: am I German as I had been told? Am I of Irish descent? Is my mother’s side really descendants of Japanese feudal royalty?

For parents, families, teachers and more, this school season–despite its challenges–is about to get so much better! Read my tips on how Ancestry brought joy to learning and sharing my family’s history, and how it can help yours too…for free!


During these unprecedented times, I am thrilled that for Ancestry is empowering K-12 teachers across America by providing them with a free 6-month World Explorer subscription. The subscription gives them access to billions of historical records to help bring curriculum to life and make connections to historical places and events throughout time. Available now, up to 10,000 teachers can verify their credentials on through September 30.


To help parents, tutors and educators teaching virtually, Ancestry is also providing free remote access to Ancestry Library Edition! For library patrons of over 2,100 participating libraries, all you need is a library to have access to billions of records, resources and databases spanning from the 1500s to the 2000s. Contact your local library to ask if they participate and for more details!

Can you imagine how my son will respond to learning about the California Gold Rush when he learns his ancestor, Joseph B. Goodman, was part of it? Around 1849, Joseph left his wife and 6 children behind in Salisbury, Illinois to take his chance at striking it rich in El Dorado County, California! Just one of the fun things I discovered using Ancestry.


Like many parents juggling distance learning at home, I viewed the discovery of our roots as an enriching fall activity that the entire family could enjoy. Unlike our worn board games where the outcome is typically one winner completing a predictable outcome, here, solving the puzzle pieces of our history together allows us to all win while uncovering unexplored knowledge about our ancestors.


When you unearth your ancestors’ stories, you’ll learn not only of the triumphs but also of hardships as well. Using a 1930 US Census record, I learned my great-grandfather Matsutaro Mizutani was the proprietor of a fish market and yet, he rented his home; it turns out his entire neighborhood of predominantly Japanese Americans rented too. This could suggest there were limitations to homeownership and likely housing segregation in his neighborhood in Sacramento, CA.

When discussing this with my children, it’s a talking point that relates to the housing segregation of Black, Latinx and other groups as well, and engages them in understanding the adversities of those who came before them.


Learning the trials and tribulations of my family leaves me inspired and proud, and I’m not alone. In a recent study by Ancestry, 78% of people reported that discovering the struggles of our past gives us a stronger sense of belonging, connection and self. These are exactly the principles I want my children to carry forth in knowing their family’s origins and contributions so that they in turn can be a part of building a better, stronger society.


Learning about where your ancestors come from is not just about landmarks of historical significance, I found. Many of the places my family resided I had never heard of before, and towns even changed names over the course of time!

The kids and I are now mapping out our family’s generational migrations across a US map. A particular family unit, John Bryant and his wife Lucinda, who lived in Virginia had the means to purchase a covered wagon and enough supplies to be part of the Westward Expansion in 1852, likely caravanning along The Oregon Trail. Fascinating!


When I shared my Ancestry findings with my parents over the phone, I had some surprises for them, and they offered others for me!

My mother was shocked to learn that her father, Gingi Mizutani, had signed up for the World War II draft – we even found his draft card with his handwriting. This is poignant in that he was later interned with his entire family in a Japanese American Relocation Camp.

Then my mother surprised me with the knowledge that after relocation, Gingi was instrumental in getting national legislation passed that helped first-generation Japanese Americans like his parents get Social Security numbers; I confirmed that on the US Final Accountability Rosters of Evacuees at Relocation Centers,1942-1946 that Gingi’s “destination of final departure” was Washington, D.C.!

The magic of Ancestry? One bit of information can open a wealth of information from your living family members that help fill the gaps in the family narrative!


With increased video-conferencing and phone calls technologies to keep us connected, relaying your Ancestry findings with loved ones who live apart is one way to further foster and build those relationships. Oral history continues to play a large part of Asian American, African American and Native American cultures to name a few, and it adds depth and poignancy to my family bonding–even while at a distance.

I recently called my father and shared an unbelievable story: “Did you know that your ancestor, George Washington Goodman, who lived in Virginia during the time of President George Washington, has a shared birth date with you of April 17th?!” By George! It was an incredible conversation that followed, and one example of the power of oral history that we’ll carry into the next generation.


Yes, I have Japanese, German and Irish heritage. Ancestry also helped me learn I’m also Scottish, English and Dutch, with even more ahead to discover. That little girl who was once so confused about her ethnicity is now armed with a stronger sense of self, and the knowledge that her pioneering ancestors from all across America have her back.”

By Amy E. Goodman, Lifestyle Journalist and Author

Ancestry knows this is a challenging time, and we are here to help by providing free tools to make this school year a little easier. We have a long-term commitment to education, and we’re proud to assist educators and parents with their focus on finding new and unique curriculum topics and to foster more personal connections to important moments in history.

For teachers interested in redeeming a free 6-month World Explorer subscription for distance learning, parents, tutors and educators seeking access to Ancestry Library Edition, or schools looking to apply for AncestryK12 for classrooms, visit