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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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“My husband’s great-great-grandfather shows up in the 1860 census twice. After years of research, I’m convinced that this is because he had two families — a wife and daughter upstream and a wife and children downriver — and that he later faked his death to live with the family downstream.

He was a boatman and worked on the river his whole life, so he had good excuses for being gone a lot. Thanks for including stories that remind us people aren’t always perfect ... and that we all have them in our family trees.”

– Kendall Clark
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On the trail of a mysterious ancestor.

In Episode 6 of NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? Steve Buscemi went searching for compelling characters in his family history. His journey began with an 1880 U.S. Census record and led him to a distant cousin through an Ancestry.com family tree. It then took many twists and turns as he revealed his great-grandfather’s shadowy past — and discovered that even the darkest discoveries in family history can shed some light on the present. Miss the episode? Watch it on NBC.com.

Three steps to finding an ancestor with a puzzling past:

Step 1: Discover key clues in the census. Check children’s and other family members’ birthplaces in census records on Ancestry.com to find different areas where the family once lived. Make note of property values over the years to see how well a business venture may have played out. And take a close look at occupations listed for everyone in the household, as even children had jobs in some cases.

Step 2: Move on to more specialized records. Newspapers and tax records may tell you the reasons behind occupation changes. And death records might reveal how the untimely death of a relative changed the course of your family history. Looking for a Civil War story? Search the 1890 Veterans Schedule to find males born between 1820 and 1845 who served in the Civil War, along with their regiment information. And explore muster rolls for additional details of Civil War service.

Step 3: Find relatives you never knew you had. You may come across another member’s family tree in your search results as you look for answers on Ancestry.com. When you do, simply click on the tree owner’s name to send a private message and introduce yourself. You could connect with a distant family member who has photos, documents and more details that include your ancestor. Search family trees.

Watch and Learn

Find Clues to Your Ancestors' Careers

Get tips for finding a lost ancestor from the Ancestry.com experts who helped make the discoveries on Who Do You Think You Are?

Watch the short video

Non-population schedule

World War I draft registration cards: Find occupations and employers in these helpful military records.

Non-population schedules: Learn about farmers and manufacturers and discover details about their businesses in these special census forms.

City directories: Discover ancestors’ addresses, occupations and sometimes employers too.

Death records: Look for job-related deaths that could have triggered a coroner’s inquest and more paperwork.

Passenger lists: Learn about an ancestor’s job back home and even a U.S. employer if the person came here to work.