RootsTech… the name sounds intriguing, but what exactly is it? Well, if you are keen to know more about recent technological advances in genealogy, it’s the perfect place to go. Running from 8th to 11th February in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, it is the biggest genealogy convention around. It has been going for seven years now, and it is growing hugely each year.
This is the place where tens of thousands of family historians and qualified genealogists gather to find out more about their families, themselves, and the tech that is being developed to help them with that search. There should be over 30,000 attendees at the 2017 convention over the four days it is on.
There are many reasons why people attend, and perhaps you might be keen to go yourself.
Firstly, it’s entirely possible that you could meet a long lost relative at the convention. It has happened more than once, with different people finding that they are searching for the same people. They can then combine their research and come up with a much bigger family tree. Plus, it’s always exciting to meet family you may not even have known you had!
Another good reason to go is that it will re-energise you when it comes to your search. For anyone who has attempted or is attempting to find out more about their ancestors, brick walls appear all too often and it can become somewhat disheartening. Going to a convention like this will give you a big boost and set you off on the right path once more. You may even discover new tech that will help you.
Speaking of new tech, that is the main reason for attending this particular event. At the 2017 convention you will find over 100 different exhibitors all showing how their innovations can help you find family members and create the ultimate family tree. Not only that, but you will be able to use some of this tech yourself. Having a proper play with it will help you decide what works for you, and what doesn’t.
Finally, those attending RootsTech all have one thing in common; they are genealogists, either professional or amateur. With that in mind, there is no doubt that you will be able to make friends and become part of a much wider community.
Discovering more about your family tree, finding out more about where you come from, can be a rewarding and fascinating hobby, but if you have made just one small mistake somewhere down the line and end up spending hours – days, even weeks – researching the wrong people… it can be frustrating to say the least. So how can you ensure that the people you are looking into really are the right ones?
There are a few tips that will help you.
Firstly, don’t be tempted to miss anyone out or skip generations. Although not everyone in your family is going to be the most interesting of people, if you skip past them, you might take a wrong turn and if you do that, it can be hard to get back on track. The same is true if you think you already know everything about one particular person. This usually happens when it comes to parents or grandparents. But if you fail to do the research that you would do for other generations just because you think you know the people you are looking into, you might miss out on a major part of their lives, which could lead to additional family that you didn’t realise existed.
Next, don’t assume that a family title means the same then as it does now. Calling someone a cousin, aunt, uncle, or even using the names ‘junior’ and ‘senior’ might not actually mean that really are a cousin, aunt, uncle, or related in any way. These terms were used much more loosely centuries ago. For example, if there were two men of the same name in a village, they might have been designated junior and senior, even if they weren’t actually related. Don’t assume that people were married either, just because they have the same name. If a woman was living in a house with a man, she may have been his sister-in-law, or even a family friend. Dig deeper to be sure.
Thirdly, don’t forget to note down where you found your information. Write down the website, book details, even microfilm and newspaper dates. Make sure you know where the information came from. This is especially important if you come across seemingly conflicting information.
Next, make sure that what you’re writing down really makes sense. If not, you may have made an error somewhere along the line, and it’s best to find that out sooner rather than later. Common mistakes that might go unnoticed at first could be that someone’s wedding takes place just a few years after they were born, or that a woman’s child was born after their mother had died! Check the dates to ensure that nothing odd has happened.
The more organised you are in your research, the easier it will be – and the fewer mistakes you are likely to make. Create or find a filing system that allows you to save your work in the best way for you, depending on how you do your research. Make sure that you have somewhere to store hard copies of your research too, and not just digital copies on your computer.
Just because something has been published, that doesn’t make it true. You should always double check any ‘facts’ that you find, and verify any research that has been done previously. This is also important for when someone else has already started your family tree, and you are completing it. Check their work before starting your own.
Finally, DNA can be a really useful tool. Although your DNA won’t be able to give you a direct link back to everyone in your family tree, it will be able to offer you some insight into where you can from, and show you were you should be looking – literally – for your ancestors.
A lot of people are very interested in their family trees, and many of them try to discover more about it. Although there are professional genealogists who are able to do this work, for some the amateur thrill of doing it themselves is tempting. But often mistakes are made which make the process harder than it needs to be.
Firstly, it is important to talk to your family about what you are doing. They may come up with ideas that you hadn’t thought of, or remind you of family members you had neglected to include. No one has a better inside into the ins and outs, the comings and goings, of your family than your family. They can help you get started, and answer questions if and when you get stuck.
Another mistake that people make is to think that they will find all the answers online. Although there is much more information online than ever before, the majority of genealogy information is actually found offline. And bear in mind that some of the ones found online might not be accurate, or even true at all. It could just be a story that someone has written down and that people are taking as fact.
Although it is a nice idea that you might be related to someone famous, or to royalty, it’s unlikely. Not impossible, but unlikely. So don’t get too caught up in trying to work out which royal lineage is yours. Just follow the facts and don’t try to make them bend to what you want them to say.
There will come a point when you will have to stop. When you have gone as far as you can. That point will probably be – if you are very lucky, that is – around the beginning of the 1300s. This is when surnames were first introduced. Before that time it will just be first names, and this makes tracing family members all but impossible. But if you’ve made it back to 1300 or so then congratulations – that’s quite a feat!
It is also extremely important to check all of your facts. It would waste an enormous amount of time if you found that you had been tracing the wrong family line for months because of a spelling mistake three hundred years in the other direction. Check everything and that should keep you on the right path.
For some, genealogy is life changing. From something that for others is a hobby, for those who really want to look deeper into it, it is something that can become not only an obsession, but a job. There are many professional genealogists who specialise in creating family trees for other people, or hunting heirs who might be due an inheritance.
But why is it so important?
There are, of course, important reasons for wanting to find missing family members or ancestors. Some of them could be health issues. If there is a history of a particular disease in the family, it can help doctors to diagnose it more quickly. This can save lives as in some cases.
Stories are also important. People like – and need – to know where they have come from, and the stories about the past can help them connect not only to their ancestors but also to themselves. These stories can also determine more information about historical events and put them into perspective.
Genetics doesn’t have to be about health issues. It can be about something as simple as finding out whether you look like something related to someone in the past. This is another way of finding out where you come from and how you fit into the extended family tree.
For those who have been adopted genealogy might be the only way of finding out more about the birth family. The same is true for a birth family searching for an adopted child. Tracing a family tree can bring the answers that would otherwise have been missing forever.
You might have family letters, Bibles with names written in them, you might be named after someone and you want more information about them…
Families can be very complicated things. Genealogy can help to simplify it.
Some family trees don’t stretch back too far. Some can be traced back for centuries. But how big is your family tree? Not how many generations, or how many people are on, but the actual, physical size of it? Never thought about it? Well, a woman from Des Moines in America decided to find out exactly how big her family tree was – and the results surprised even her!
Velma Turner, 77, decided one day six years ago that she wanted to see what her family tree looked like – in the form of a real tree. So she went to work, firstly tracing her roots back to the 1600s, and then putting all the details together in a full sized model of a living, breathing tree in her living room. She admits she didn’t realise the project would be quite as big as it turned out to be (around 7 feet), but she is pleased with the result, which does look impressive. With varnished leaves representing family members, toothpaste moulded to show water, cotton clouds, and treated branches to show where everyone came from (and this includes Madagascar and Ethiopia), it really is an impressive piece of sculpture – and it tells a fascinating story.
The tree entirely covers her living room wall, and covers eight generations. She would like to add the newest generation to it, but she has run out of room and needs to work out how to put generation number 9 into the sculpture!
Velma loves her tree, and is proud not only of the work she put into it, but the sense of belonging it instils in her, and her family.
It seems that IWC is fast becoming the chosen genealogy service provider for celebrities, with two sons of famous singers asking us to help them research their father’s family tree and life.
One of these clients is the son of Jamaican singer, Nicky Thomas. Mr Thomas is probably best remembered for covering his version of the song: “Love of the Common People” in 1970 – a song which also climbed to the top of the charts for Paul Young in 1982.
After the success of this hit, which sold over 175,000 records in the UK, and a concert tour, Mr Thomas decided to stay in the UK, where he continued to record reggae music.
Not a great deal is currently known about the man from then on until his death, aged 41, in 1990. His family would understandably like to know more about his life and their family tree and we have our best researchers on the case.
If you had any connections with Nicky Thomas during his lifetime and can contribute to the research which we are currently working through, please do contact us and help us to give his son a more thorough picture of his family and roots.