Give the gift of family history


(StatePoint) One word stands out above the gifts, meals and parties of the holiday season -- family. There's no better time to begin learning about family roots as you’re gathered together in celebration.

You can conveniently traverse the genealogical landscape thanks to new technology tools, such as mobile apps, social media and even affordable ancestral DNA tests that enable you to find family stories you may not have known about. Liven up the holidays and connect with those who mean the most by sitting down and chatting about family history. Here are some pointers to get started:

• Start with what you know: Using a website like Ancestry.com, or the Ancestry app (available on iOS and Android), enter the information you know into your family tree. Upload photos to preserve memories. Don’t have all the facts? Don’t worry. This is just the start of your quest.

• Take a DNA test: DNA isn’t just for TV shows and professional detectives. You now can be your own detective. Get your ethnic breakdown by percentage, such as 50 percent Irish and 50 percent Native American, and find out who else may be related to you with tools such as AncestryDNA. On average, folks taking the test have 60 matches to 4th -- or closer -- cousins in their results.

• Chat with relatives at family gatherings: Over the holidays, dive into your family history with relatives. Consider gifting them family history resources like a DNA test. Record any interviews, particularly with the elderly, and take detailed notes. Ask everyone to bring photo albums and heirlooms. Any documents you create or collect you can attach to your online family tree for preservation.   

• Look at the ancestry hints in your family tree: Ancestry provides hints about possible relatives to populate your family tree. These clues could give valuable insight into your family’s legacy and connect you with lost relatives.  

• Share your findings: Whether it’s at the next family reunion, or as a belated holiday gift wrapped and framed, share your findings with your family for a better understanding of your collective heritage. Plenty of websites offer printing services, so consider the perfect stocking stuffer: a calendar, book, poster or other gift that will bring more meaning to the holidays. Encourage family to try the app and fill in their own family tree.

For more researching tips, or to get started on your own search.

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