Explore Your Family Tree

Ancestry projects grow in popularity as more people connect with their roots


Published:

Photo Courtesy of Diane L. Richard, MosaicRPM

Genealogy might be a study of the past, but it continues to attract millions of enthusiasts in the present. In fact, according to the 2014 “Ancestry Global Family History Report” from ancestry.com, which compiled data from 6,000 people across the globe, one in three adults has turned to the internet to uncover information about their ancestors. Two-thirds of those surveyed say knowing more about family history is increasingly important. This Saturday, Oct. 15, starting at 10 a.m. the North Carolina Government and Heritage Library and the State Archives of North Carolina is offering a free webcast to North Carolinians about the tools they can use to track their family history.

Diane L. Richard of Raleigh, a professional genealogist at Mosaic Research and Project Management, suspects that the mobility of modern families contributes to a desire to connect with their roots, which have potentially gotten lost in the process.

“I’ve lived about five different places,” Richard says. “My kids were born some place we don’t live now. You don’t have the family stories, you don’t have the connections, you don’t have that sense of where you came from. In a way, that was always an anchor for people … there was a security to knowing where you came from.”

Moving around leads many families to want to rediscover their roots to understand more than just their branch on the family tree, says Meghan Bowden, a professional genealogist at Kinfolk Genealogy in Charlotte.

“I think for a lot of us (who research our family’s history), there’s just a curiosity,” she says. “Where did I come from, who came before me … and placing your family within the larger picture.”

Image of an Acey family immigration document courtesy of Diane L. Richard, MosaicRPM

Beginning Your Search

Setting out on your own treasure hunt to collect pieces of your family’s puzzle has never been easier. Below are some tips to consider as you begin exploring.

1. Start with what you and your relatives know. “You always start with yourself,” Richard says, as well as with your family and their stories. Bill Beyea, a father of two in Winston-Salem who has done extensive genealogy research, recommends writing down everything you can think of about your family’s history, as well as reaching out to relatives to see what information they might have. With thousands of potential members in a family tree, Bowden says “it can really get overwhelming,” but narrowing your search to a particular branch helps.

2. Find a way to make the search work for you. Beyea says the amount of time he spends researching his family comes and goes in “phases.” Growing up, his family would look in phone books when they traveled on the off chance they might find someone else who shared his uncommon last name. This was one of the seeds that grew into his desire to fill out his family tree.

Image of a passport document for an Acey family member COURTESY OF DIANE L. RICHARD, MOSAICRPM

“It was always a curiosity — the name itself,” Beyea says. “It’s a very uncommon name, and it was most likely a name that was spelled differently at some point, but the records don’t go back that far.”

He has traced the name back to a group of New York brothers, but the trail ends there. Any records of the brothers’ parents’ names have been lost.

“There has always been this ongoing quest — will some bit of information that exists somewhere ever turn up to crack that code?” Beyea wonders.

3. Look up local genealogy societies and county records. A last name also inspired Richard to seek answers through genealogical research. She has rarely heard of anyone else who shares her maiden name, Acey. She knew her father’s family was Finnish, but after his father died, his mother ceased contact with that side of the family.

Richard called a government office in the Massachusetts county where members of the Acey family had lived in the past to see if their records could help. The clerk who called her back said she hadn’t had luck finding anything about the name Acey, but she had found a paper mentioning another last name in association with it.

“Long story short, Kujanpää was the name they immigrated with and within a year, they changed it to [Esi then] Acey. That just opened the door to Finland.”

Photo Courtesy of Diane L. Richard, MosaicRPM

With only that nugget of information, Richard was able to trace her family back to their Finnish town’s founding. All because the clerk — a stranger — took a little bit of extra time to investigate for her.

“This is a massive puzzle of the world and we all have certain little pieces,” she says. “You don’t know where that will come from.”

The North Carolina Genealogical Society supports researchers statewide. There are also multiple local societies across the state, Richard says. The societies often have journals and newsletters that can help you think through research.

Genealogists are a very caring, sharing, giving crowd,” she says. “They love helping somebody get started on their journey.”

4. Search the web. A plethora of virtual resources exists to point you in the right direction. One of the most popular, ancestry.com, takes the information you have and tries to connect it with other records and family trees on the site.

Familysearch.org, a free site provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is another “great place to dabble” and explore records, Richard says. Other sites, such as myheritage.com also offer access to family-tree-building software and historical records. Findagrave.com can enable you to locate ancestors’ headstones.

“Ultimately, it’s helpful to use a combination of all of (the sites) if you can,” Bowden says, with a warning that ancestry.com is “not foolproof” and can easily lead you down the wrong path if the information other members have posted isn’t accurate.

5. Get the kids involved. Have children interview their grandparents, or help sort through family photos or keepsakes, perhaps making a scrapbook from their findings.

“Children really benefit from knowing those stories and feeling like they’re part of a larger family or a larger story,” Bowden says.

Bowden’s interest in her family history bloomed from grandparents who “both just loved to tell stories.” When she was working on a school ancestry project in elementary school, her grandmother shared with her that Pocahontas was one of their ancestors.

“As a kid, I was just totally fascinated,” Bowden says.

Later, she studied history in school and began to research her family’s past. Some of her most interesting finds? Letters exchanged between ancestors.

“Finding pictures or poems or things like that that you would never have known existed, you’re like ‘Yes, I’ve found this treasure!’”

Older children also benefit from this research. Not only does it make history personal, it helps them develop research skills, problem-solving techniques and experience evaluating the veracity of information, Richard says.

6. Call in a professional. Richard and Bowden consult with clients who want help tracing their family’s history. They offer a variety of services and packages tailored to their clients’ needs, and the research they do complements what you do on your own.

Laura Lacy is a freelance writer based in Chapel Hill. She fell down the ancestry.com rabbit hole while researching this story.

 

Proof is in the DNA

DNA testing is another way genealogy research has entered the modern age. AncestryDNA and 23andMe both offer tests that can indicate where your ancestors originated from, as well as potentially connect you to living relatives who have also taken the test. Both companies allow you to submit saliva samples from home via a $99 kit.

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October 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

Where:
Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
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1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
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The Angus Barn
9401 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27617
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Cost: Free

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1150 Fleming Rd.
Creedmoor, NC  27522
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Cost: Free

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Erwin Road
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Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Fidelity Bank Parking Lot
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Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Cost: $5

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC  27539
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Cost: $15-$75

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101 E Weaver St
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Telephone: (919) 636-4860
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Cost: See website for fees

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1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Where:
Providence Baptist Church
6339 Glenwood Avenue
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1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
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Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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Providence Baptist Church
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Cost: $5/person

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405 Brooks St.
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Cost: $10/adult, $5/youth, one free youth per adult ticket

Where:
Providence Baptist Church
6339 Glenwood Avenue
Raleigh, NC  27612
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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
N.C. State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 1-5 and caregiver take a relaxing stroll to experience nature. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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Cost: Free: students must register

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Ste 2
Durham, NC  27701
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Cost: Free

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306 Parham St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Raleigh Night Market
Contact Name: Sara Buxton
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Join the Raleigh Community Orchestra as it presents its fall concert, “Where Have I Heard That? Music from Cartoons, Commericals, and Classics” for all ages.

Cost: $10/adult, $5/youth, one free youth per adult ticket

Where:
Providence Baptist Church
6339 Glenwood Avenue
Raleigh, NC  27612
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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
N.C. State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $10/person

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Cost: $18

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Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Cost: Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: $5-$20

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Koka Booth Amphitheatre
8003 Regency Pkwy.
Cary, NC  27511
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Cost: $21/parent and child pair; $11 additional child

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Middle Creek Community Center
123 Middle Creek Park Ave.
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Cost: Free

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TheeDesign
7901 Strickland Dr.
Suite 112
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Sponsor: TheeDesign
Telephone: 919-341-8901
Contact Name: Lauren Elliott
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Friday, October 19; 6:00–7:00 p.m. Did you know there are over 40,000 different species of spiders! Join us as we explore a few arachnids found in our park as we search out these 8-legged...

Cost: $1/Person

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850

More information

Join the Raleigh Community Orchestra as it presents its fall concert, “Where Have I Heard That? Music from Cartoons, Commericals, and Classics” for all ages.

Cost: $10/adult, $5/youth, one free youth per adult ticket

Where:
Providence Baptist Church
6339 Glenwood Avenue
Raleigh, NC  27612
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Community Orchestra
Website »

More information

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Show Less...

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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
N.C. State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
Knightdale Station Park
810 N. First Ave.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Sponsor: Dementia Alliance of North Carolina
Telephone: 919-832-3732
Contact Name: Kacy Hall
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Enjoy a craft fair presented by the Junior League of Raleigh. See website for hours and to purchase advance tickets.  

Cost: $10/person

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

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The Aspen School for Exceptional Children
1050 A NW Maynard Road
Cary, NC  27513
View map »

More information

Ages 1-5 and caregiver take a relaxing stroll to experience nature. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Step back in time with 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Preregistration encouraged. Purchase tickets at the mill. 

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60 & over), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Children ages 6 & un

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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Cost: Free

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Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: $5/person. Free for ages 2 and younger

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Historic Stagville
5828 Old Oxford Hwy.
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Cost: $5-$20

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Koka Booth Amphitheatre
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Cost: $10 for adults; $5 for children under 12

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Sunny Acres Pet Resort
5908 US-70 BUS
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Sponsor: Triangle Beagle Rescue of NC
Telephone: 919 760 0025
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Cost: Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
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Cost: $9/member, $12/nonmember. Free for accompanying adult.

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100 Old Mason Farm Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC  27517
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Sponsor: North Carolina Botanical Garden
Telephone: 919-537-3770
Contact Name: Elisha Taylor
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Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

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220 Fayetteville St.
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Cost: Free

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Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
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Cost: $100 per person

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The Farm at 42
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