From facts to stories.
Celebrity chef Paula Deen set out to learn more about her family’s life in the Civil War era on Who Do You Think You Are? But she discovered that the real story isn’t always so easy to come by. Tax records, for example, showed her that one ancestor’s fortune took a nosedive in 1874. To
find out why, Paula had to look at his story against the backdrop of both American history and family events. Ancestry.com is a sponsor of Who Do You Think You Are? (Miss the episode? Watch it online.)
Historical records can seem one-dimensional when you
just look at facts. A family moved to a new town. A father changed jobs. But look at a record against history and
you begin to see those actions in a whole new light.
Here’s how to get to the heart of the story:
Inquire at home.
Ask questions and write down answers and stories. Done it? Ask other branches of the family what they know too. And dig through old photos and attics, as new clues can
Review early discoveries.
Take another look at your earlier finds – recent ones, too. Even the best family historian can miss a detail or discover that something makes more sense a second time through. Be sure to jot down all details on a timeline. It’s a quick way to notice patterns and discrepancies.
Take a lesson in history.
Learn more about national and local history that may have affected your family. For the
latter, check with the library closest to your ancestor’s former home. Also look for local records and stories on Ancestry.com in newspapers and town histories. Write down everything you find.
Do some basic analysis.
Step back to get a view of the bigger picture: your family’s story. Still have holes? Jump back into your research, armed with more knowledge that will make discoveries easier to find.