If you hang around with people who are into genealogy and family tree research long enough, you will eventually run into someone – and several someones, most likely – who claim to have famous or infamous ancestors. I have a few famous ancestors in my past, and I’m sure that you, do, too. I’ve got some tips for you to help you figure out how to find them.
Spoiler alert: It will take you more than a few minutes!
These are just ideas and thoughts about the topic. If you have any ideas, or if you have found out anything really cool – or not cool – about your ancestors, I would love to hear about it. Leave me a comment!
Find Famous Ancestors – Build Your Tree
The first thing is first:
- Build your family tree. If you haven’t started a family tree, this is the first step in finding out whether you have anything noteworthy or interesting in your family’s past. My favorite place to build a family tree is on Ancestry, since once you start the tree, you get record hints, and information can be filled in automatically from them. It’s really much easier than you might think.
- On Ancestry, or on some of the other websites for family tree building, after you build back a few generations, you will start to find that your ancestors start to show up in several family trees. This is because of simple mathematics. The further back you go, the more potential descendants there are, and the more descendants there are, the more potential genealogy researchers there could be in the family. If you stumble upon an ancestor several generations back that shows up in what seems to you to be a large number of family trees (like more than 15, for example), this might mean – though not always – that the reason that so many people are interested in this line of the tree is that there is something really cool going on, either with that ancestor, or further back in his/her line.
- On the topic of building a tree, it is important to mention that you should be as thorough as possible. Sites like Ancestry and Family Search have tons of great records, and you can find lots of information about your family a few generations back. The more thorough you are, the more likely it is that you have actually found the correct ancestors and can prove, theoretically, that you are related to this person.
- When you are in the process of being through and researching everything that you possibly can, don’t overlook the possibility that you can find information about your more recent (past 4-6 generations) in newspapers. There are many places online that you can access old newspaper records. I have been able to find really random things online about my great-great grandparents, for example, and you will also be surprised about what you find
If you use the following link, you will be able to have a two-week free trial on Ancestry, which is great for adding records to your family tree (you don’t need a subscription to build your tree) and really getting access to all of the benefits of Ancestry DNA. I will get a small commission if you use this link, at no extra cost to you whatsoever – it helps me support this website, and thanks 🙂 Ancestry Free Trial
Pro tip: Don’t overlook any lines of your family tree. Some people start out only interested in where their surname comes from, but don’t forget that that great-grandmother might be from a really amazing line of people – and it’s up to you to find out!
Find Famous Ancestors – Use Google
This seems like a really simple idea, but once you start building your tree, Google your relatives. All of them. I’ve learned some very fascinating about some of my ancestors through simple internet searches. Much of what I learned wasn’t something that would have popped up in a family tree search, so it pays to think outside of the box!
Here are some tips for using Google to find information about your ancestors:
- Use quotation marks around names or terms that you want Google to specifically search for. For example, I have a great-great-great-great grandmother named Maria Applegate. If I want to search for her on Google, I will put into the search bar “Maria Applegate” to only get results that have that exact search term in it.
- Enter is as many key words as you know or want to search for for your relative. For example, if I know that Maria Applegate was born in New Jersey in 1815, I will enter it like that into the search bar:
Find Famous Ancestors – Test Your DNA
You know what is even better than a really well-researched family tree that documents your lineage back to a famous ancestor? A really well-documented family tree that is backed up by scientific proof! You can do a simple DNA test and using some simple strategies, prove that you are related to other descendants of that ancestor.
Using this strategy, I have been able to verify genealogical research on several lines in my family as many as 8-10 generations back into history. Testing your older family members is also a great strategy for this, as well. My grandmother and two great-uncles have done DNA tests, and their results help me “reach” much further back than I ever would be able to just with my own results.
Once you are done with all of the steps on this post, you might have found some interesting, famous, or infamous ancestors. But what I am sure that you will have done is built a really amazing family tree for yourself. So no matter what you learn, or if you learn something you weren’t really expecting, you will have some cool stories to tell about your family history.
Thanks for stopping by! Let me know your story in the comments!