As I mentioned elsewhere, Hattie’s War began with an exploration of my family genealogy. Genealogy is the study of one’s family history. The goal is to be able to construct a Family Tree, a chart showing the ancestry, descent, and relationship of all members of your family going back generations (your grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.) See mine below.
In recent years delving into genealogy research has become easy with the help of a number of websites. I used Ancestry for much of my work. Ancestry is a paid service that has lots of features built in to help the novice. However, another very good site, Family Search, is free to use and draws on the same databases (it is all owned by The Church of Later Day Saints – The Mormons). If you are 13 years or older, you can sign-up for a free account.
Tips from the New York Public Library:
- Write down what you know in a systematic way.
- Start with yourself, your name, date, and place of birth.
- Then work backwards, writing down the same information about your parents and their parents, as much as you know about your ancestors’ names and the dates and places of their key life events, i.e., birth, marriage, and death.
- Gather any records you may have at home that provide this information: diaries, letters, photo albums, scrapbooks, birth and death certificates, and so on.
- Interview family members who know something of the family’s history. Gather names, places, events, and stories. Ask to see family photographs and documents and find out the names and life stories of people in those photographs.
- Then you might begin to search in records available online, or in libraries and archives. Start with the census, the most recent being 1950 and work backward, writing down what you learn.
- Expand your search to include other types of records, depending on what you have learned. Look for information in vital records, ship passenger lists, naturalization records, and religious records. Look for other records that describe your ancestors, their familial relations, and life events.
FamilySearch has a cool feature called Famous Relatives (under the Activities menu). It is actually kind of mind-blowing. It turns out I am related to 26 presidents, ten passengers on the Mayflower (two are my 11th great-grandfathers), Edison, Neil Armstrong, Thoreau, Princess Diana, John Lennon, Walt Disney, Lucille Ball, and many others. Crazy!
My Family Tree
Below is my family tree following my mother’s side of the family since that is the side Hattie’s War is based on. Thirteen generations dating to the 1500s!
As mentioned in the story, Hattie’s parents, Hannibal Howell and Charlotte Wickham, both came from large families of fourteen children.