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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Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Beyond Personal Finance
Contact Name: Charla McKinley
Website »

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Short class advertising for local class   I am a mom and retired CPA who is passionate about teaching teens about the high cost of their choices. I teach a fun, interactive "Game of Life meets...

Cost: $225

Where:
Hope Community Church- Apex
2080 E Williams Street
Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Beyond Personal Finance
Contact Name: Charla McKinley
Website »

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Azevedo Family Psychology and Kym Azevedo will host an Art for Life group each Thursday from 5:30-6:30PM beginning January 16 and running through March 26. This group is completely free, kid...

Cost: FREE

Where:
1903 N. Harrison Ave
Suite 201
Cary, NC  27513
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Sponsor: Azevedo Family Psychology
Telephone: 919-624-9568
Contact Name: Kym Azevedo
Website »

More information

Explore astronomy, biology, architectural and engineering principles, technology and so much more through our hands-on, play-based activities. Spend an evening with your preschooler, experiencing...

Cost: free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: Saint Rapahel Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Katie Mistele
Website »

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The goal of the How To Talk So Kids Will Listen Group workshop is to help you communicate more effectively with children.   In each session of the workshop you'll be introduced to an...

Cost: $12.95 materials fee

Where:
Wildflower School at Belle Vie Farm
3100 Damascus Church Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
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Sponsor: Wildflower School at Belle Vie Farm
Telephone: 919-260-6859
Contact Name: Shelley Welch
Website »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
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Telephone: 919-962-7529

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Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Summer Garden Camps at the JCRA invite your child to investigate nature during half or full day camps.  Campers tend to the garden, harvest vegetables, catch insects, and create crafts from the...

Cost: Varies depending on camp week

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Sponsor: JC Raulston Arboretum
Telephone: (919) 513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Join us for Family Trivia Night!  Test your knowledge of pop culture, books, music and more. Pizza and drinks provided.  Call or stop by to register: 919-245-2532. Best for kids ages 8 and up...

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

Art Walk featuring local galleries and artist studios in historic downtown Hillsborough on the Last Friday of every month (no Art Walk in December).

Cost: FREE

Where:
Downtown Hillsborough (multiple locations)
102 N. Churton St.
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Hillsborough Arts Council
Telephone: 919-643-2500
Contact Name: Torey Mishoe
Website »

More information

Kids! Are you sick of the Winter? Enjoy a Summer's night at Peach Road Center. Enjoy a Summer-like evening with us. Get into the luau spirit and play summer games!  

Cost: Free

Where:
Peach Road Community Center
911 Ileagnes Rd
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: City or Raleigh Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-807-8545
Contact Name: Christy Famolare

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Join our bird enthusiast, Vernon, for an easy walk while looking and listening for our feathered friends. Discover different types of birds and their habitats.​ No preregistration required. Meet...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

How did people predict the weather before The Weather Channel, and can animals really help? Come to the Finley Center to put our colonial weather proverbs to the test and make a pop-up woodchuck...

Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is not required

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Summer Garden Camps at the JCRA invite your child to investigate nature during half or full day camps.  Campers tend to the garden, harvest vegetables, catch insects, and create crafts from the...

Cost: Varies depending on camp week

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Sponsor: JC Raulston Arboretum
Telephone: (919) 513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Join us to meet the educators, see the farm and learn more about our Preschool for 3-5 year olds and Camps for 4-10 year olds. We'll have a campfire for some warmth but please come dressed for the...

Cost: 0

Where:
Longleaf Forest School
4826 Mt. Moriah Road
Durhan, NC  27707
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Sponsor: Longleaf Forest School
Contact Name: Tara Lawson
Website »

More information

Chinese New Year Festival, also Lunar New Year Festival. Largest public event in the Triangle. MAIN STAGE has vocal and orchestral music, folk dance, Lion and Dragon dances, martial arts, and comic...

Cost: $10 entry at door, military and senior discounts, kids<6 free

Where:
Dorton Arena, NC State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Enter Gate 1,2,4,5,11
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Sponsor: NC Triangle Area Chinese American Society
Contact Name: Michael, Shin
Website »

More information

Chinese New Year Festival or Lunar New Year Festival, largest public event in the Triangle. MAIN STAGE with musical and dance performances, Lion Dance Dragon Dance, martial arts, comic skits emceed...

Cost: $10 entry at door, military and senior discounts, kids<6 free

Where:
Dorton Arena, NC State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Enter Gate 1,2,4,5,11
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Sponsor: NC Triangle Area Chinese American Society
Contact Name: Michael, Shin
Website »

More information

Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

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


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Spanish Alive is providing Family Spanish classes starting in January! Join us to learn Spanish as an entire family in an immersive, fun environment. Our teachers are trained Spanish educators and...

Cost: $75-$216

Where:
Spanish Alive
156 E. Chatham St
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Did you know that Disney, Netflix, Google and NASA, just to name a few, are all using Python? Python can be used for creating web applications, automation, programming robots and artificial...

Cost: Free: registration required

Where:
, NC


Website »

More information

FEB. 1, 2020 | 1 – 4 P.M. | BLUE JAY POINT COUNTY PARK Spend a winter afternoon getting to know Blue Jay Point County Park at our Winter Open House. Whether you’re a regular visitor or have...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Road
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Telephone: 919-870-4330
Website »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

Come on out to support the NC State Gymnastics team as they take on North Carolina in a RED out on February 1st! The first 300 fans in attendance will receive an exclusive red NC State Gymnastics...

Cost: $3-$7

Where:
Reynolds Collisuem
2411 Dunn Ave.
Raleigh , NC  27607
View map »

More information

Come on out to support the NC State Gymnastics team as they take on North Carolina in a RED out on February 1st! The first 300 fans in attendance will receive an exclusive red NC State Gymnastics...

Cost: $3-$7

Where:
Reynolds Collisuem
2411 Dunn Ave.
Raleigh , NC  27607
View map »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

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Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2019-20 Education Guide offers 718 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. In our 2019-20 issue, explore 1,028 resources for family fun.