Researching The Family Tree

With all the news about the US Census lately, I got to thinking about how vital those records were to my own genealogy research project a few years back.

My mom can trace her Sicilian roots back more than five generations with names, birth and death dates, and other details.  My dad doesn’t have more than a few photo albums and hazy recollections of grandparents he met a handful of times.   My grandfather worked overseas and the family spent years traveling by ship from New York City to Istanbul or from San Francisco to Hong Kong.

1950s--The SS Independence, a ship my dad took several times.
The SS Indpendence--a ship my dad sailed many times--entering NYC in the 1950s.

A few years ago, I decided to try and help my dad fill in some of the blanks in his family’s history by doing genealogy research as a Father’s Day gift.  Can I just tell you how addictive and thrilling it is to research your family’s roots?  I had no idea hunting through the New York City’s Public Library–the Milstein Division of Genealogy–could be such fun.

I used a few websites through my local public library as well–many libraries have subscriptions to genealogy forums similar to and there is no fee associated with using them.  Census records were invaluable, as were several city agencies that provided copies of birth and death certificates a nominal fee.  I also dug up several ship manifests that featured my dad’s name and the exact dates of travel.

Ultimately, I was able to create a fairly detailed family tree for my father’s side of our family.  My search was made easier by the fact that my dad and grandparents were all born in New York City, records were readily available, and I could pop into the city at will.  I distilled the information into a twenty-page narrative, took some photographs of significant locations in the city, and included copies of various documents for my dad.

Are you a genealogy buff?  Do you have a family tree or have you thought about working on one?


  • At 2010.05.02 00:44, g said:

    that’s the nicest gift i’ve ever heard of nat.

    • At 2010.05.02 18:14, nat @book, line, and sinker said:

      oh, you know me…little miss sweetie pie. mwa ha ha. seriously, dad-o did like this gift but it put serious pressure on me to do similar gifts for his bdays and future father’s days!

    • At 2010.05.02 11:16, Unapologetically Mundane said:

      I did the free month of once and found that my aunt’s sister was already detailing our family tree there. So awesome. My great-aunt has books and books full of information and photos of my dad’s side of the family, but my mom’s side is practically all dead at this point, and I KNOW we have to put something together before it’s just my two cousins and me left. But I’m lazy.
      .-= Unapologetically Mundane´s last blog ..Auf Wiedersehen, Jessica! Hallo, Drunk Katie! =-.

      • At 2010.05.04 23:00, Lisa Munley said:

        Wow, Nat, that’s an awesome gift!! My own family tree is quite messed up due to some lies, adoptions that people weren’t open about, false names and faulty memories.. for instance, I thought for many years that one man was my bio. father but later found out another man was.. and THAT man was always referred to as “Chuck” so I assumed his first name was Charles, but later found out his true name was Frederick! Yeah, weird. And then my great grandmother changed her last name from Mueller to Miller when she came to this country, muddying the waters even further. I know a little bit but I don’t think I could get all that far on what I know! I have been more curious lately, though, with that new tv show about genealogy. Maybe I’ll give it a go.
        .-= Lisa Munley´s last blog ..Randy Susan Meyers, author of The Murderer’s Daughters, on tour July 2010 =-.

        • At 2010.05.05 17:04, Dishy said:

          I’m speechless Nat. I knew you were doing all that research, but had no idea you’d put it together in such detail. Your dad must have been floored.

          John is very into genealogy, and has researched both sides of his own family. My paternal grandmother has done her two as well – the only missing pieces come from my mom’s side. I wish I knew more about her family. We’re not even sure where in the UK they’re from (Wales, Scotland or Ireland..??)
          .-= Dishy´s last blog ..Grease stains, Ice cream cones and Walmart – Oh MY. =-.

          • At 2010.05.19 12:42, avisannschild said:

            I’ve done quite a lot of research on my mum’s side of the family (my dad has done his side) and have gone back to the early 1800s. However, I haven’t put it into a narrative, as you have! What a great gift for your dad.
            .-= avisannschild´s last blog ..Review of Getting a Grip 2: Clarity, Creativity and Courage for the World We Really Want by Frances Moore Lappé =-.

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