Family History is Fun

I work in a library, so I’m well aware of just how many people out there love rooting around in old microfilm and records to find out what their family members were up to in years gone by. And while I’ve dabbled in the practice now and then, it’s never really grabbed hold of me. Part of this is because I come from a long, long line of Mormon stock on both sides of my family, which means that if there’s family history work to need doing, then it’s all the low hanging fruit has long since been picked, eaten, and then gone over a few more times to make sure there was nothing interesting left.  Mormons take their genealogy very seriously.

But the Mormon church’s family history website just came out with an all new version, and I wanted to give it a whirl. (This is the new new version, for those of you playing along at home. About five years ago, the website was familysearch.org, and the church made a big push for a new version of the site, new.familysearch.org. Now it’s a new new push, and it’s back to familysearch.org. What’s old is new again.)

All you need to know is to go to this link. It’s awesome.

Why is it awesome? Well, first a disclaimer. I have no idea if it will be awesome for you. Since I’ve already had other family members do all the research for me, it was the easiest thing I’ve ever done–I just clicked over, and my whole family tree was filled in for me. If you haven’t had people working on your genealogy, then it might be a bit slower for you. But who knows–maybe you’ve got some Mormons or family history nuts related to you, and you’ll tap into some great research.

But what sets this new site apart from the old sites I’d tried before is the family tree fan chart view. The site quickly and efficiently displays you, your kids, your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and great-great grandparents–all at one time. Better yet, it’s all really easy to navigate. Want to find out the same information about your great-great grandfather? Click his name, then click “family tree.” Bam! As long as the work has been done, you’ve got him, his children, his parents, his grandparents, his great grandparents, and his great-great grandparents.

It’s really easy to click click click your way back through history. Really really easy. Using the site, I tried to see how far back in time I could go. The answer? I made it all the way to my 54 times great grandfather Titurel, who was born in 270 AD. That’s pretty far. (It helped that I picked a line that hit pay dirt: Roger Williams (founder of Rhode Island). His five times great grandmother was Joan Tudor, of THE Tudor family. Her great grandfather was Charles VI (nickname? “The Mad.”), King of France. Once you’ve got royalty, you’ve got people who were really serious about their family lines.)

But let’s be honest. Knowing that your whatever-great grandfather was a King of France is cool and all, but it’s not exactly real. It doesn’t connect with me on a tangible level. I wanted to know more about people I could actually visualize how I was related to. So I started looking at my great-great grandparents. And the site doesn’t disappoint on this level, either. It lets researchers (including you yourself) enter information for people–pictures, interesting stories, etc. And you can easily access those stories if they’re there. By clicking through links and looking for stories that are already entered, I’ve found out tons about my ancestors. Not just their names, but who they were and what they did. I’ve read about blacksmiths and farmers and pioneers and polygamists. Read their journal entries about being attacked by mobs or settling the wilderness or fearing Indian raids. And these aren’t just people in a movie or characters in a book–they’re my great great grandparents. They’re people I can actually connect with. And that makes a huge difference for me somehow.

To have pictures of them available to me? Even better. I’ve spent hours on this site since I discovered it, and there always seems to be more to find each time I go back. Will it be the same for you? I can’t make any promises, but I will say that this seems like an example of the best sort of thing the hive mind can accomplish–everyone enters the information they know and find, and everyone benefits.

So give it a whirl. I’d be interested to see what you find.

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