I’ve always been interested in genealogy in a distant sort of way. For example, I thoroughly enjoy watching the show Who Do You Think You Are? In each episode, a celebrity uncovers the stories, secrets, and history of their ancestors.
My fondness for Who Do You Think You? inspired me to write a genealogist heroine. Bookish Nora Bradford, Genealogist Extraordinaire and Historical Village Owner, is the heroine of my most recent contemporary romance, True to You. I paired her with a hero who asks her to help him find his birth mother.
Enter my hair stylist, Tammy, who is full of interesting stories. Tammy had never been entirely sure who her father was. Her mom had hinted that it was man #1. Her aunt had told her she suspected it was man #2. Tammy never had any clarity on the subject until she sent a DNA sample to Ancestry.com. Her results provided her with insight into her ethnicity. And, because some of her family members had already sent in their DNA, the results also provided her with insight into her father’s identity. It was man #2. AND she discovered a half-sister she’d never known she had. AND she discovered that her mom had been wrong about the identity of her father (Tammy’s grandfather) too.
I didn’t expect any jaw-dropping surprises like the above from my DNA test. But my conversation with Tammy made me wonder about my own ethnicity. I was fortunate to know all four of my grandparents and some of my great grandparents well. Beyond that, I mostly knew that we’d been farmers in the south before migrating to California around the time of the Great Depression.
When Ancestry ran a special on their DNA test over Black Friday weekend, I bought one.
Six weeks later, here’s what I discovered about myself:
I had no idea that I had Scandinavian heritage!
Ancestry.com’s marketing funnel worked like a charm on me because my DNA results motivated me to discover who it was who’d come to America from those far-flung places.
Friends! Beware. Creating a family tree is addictive!
Thanks to the tremendous number of census records, marriage documents, information gleaned from grave stones, and access to other people’s family tree information available at Ancestry.com, I’ve been able to “meet” the people I’m descended from for the first time.
It’s relatively easy to add to your tree. Do you see the little green “leaves” next to the names on my tree above? Every time I click on a leaf it shows me all the data the site has on that person. Then I’m able to add information to my tree with the click of a button.
It turns out that my ancestors came to America a LONG TIME ago. Shockingly so. As far as I can tell at this point, one female ancestor was born in Plymouth in 1623. Others were present at Jamestown. Some were Quakers. One hosted George Washington on his property numerous times. Another fought in the Revolutionary War.
Every now and then, I’ll stumble upon a gem like the below and glimpse the faces of the people I’m descended from.
Best of all, my expanding family tree is giving me a clearer sense of myself. Of who I am. And the people I come from. Now that I’m uncovering genealogical information, I’m astonished that I was content with my ignorance about my heritage as long as I was. I’m curious by nature! Why did I wait so long to solve on my own personal mystery?
Ancestry.com offers a free trial but when the free trial expires, you have to subscribe to the site. There are several sites that offer free genealogy information, however: