5 Things To Love About Researching Your Family Tree and the Meaning ofYour Last Name on Ancestry.com

Friends of the internet, I can barely stop snooping around Ancestry.com long enough to write this post. I am not even kidding. It is compulsive. You find out something about one person and then you see that you can find something out about another person and then, the next thing you know, you haven't eaten in 3 weeks straight.

Ancestry.com is so. my. thing.

Want to tour an old house?

I'm your lady.

Want to pay extra for the audio tour?

I'm your girl.

Want to walk around a cemetery looking at all gravesites?

Call me.

Want to give me a year subscription to Ancestry.com so that I can learn about the people that lived in the really old houses that are in my own family?


Ancestry is the world’s largest online resource for family history. Ancestry strives to fill the fundamental desire people have to understand who they are and where they came from. With a unique collection of billions of historical records, including handwritten historical documents and state and local government archives, Ancestry is the perfect place to learn fun and interesting facts about your family’s tree.
I am so very grateful that I was given this opportunity to partner with Ancestry.com. They are allowing me to enjoy the World Explorer Membership for a year. At Ancestry.com, you can either go the World Explorer Membership (WEM) level route or the U.S. Discovery (USD) route. You can try both for free for 14 days. After that, the WEM is $34.99 a month ($149 for 6 months) and the USD is $19.99 a month ($99 for 6 months). I just like getting all of that out of the way. You did hear me mention "free", though, right? You can find out A LOT for free in 2 weeks. 


I honestly think that most people would find out all that they would want to know in those 2 free weeks. If you are super serious about your family tree and have the time to dive into all the leaves, you may want more time. For most, as I said, I think the 2 free weeks would be just enough.

Besides "learning more about my family", there are some specific things that I love about Ancestry.com and the way that it is set up.

#1 The shaky leaves:                       

Many times when a new person gets added to your tree, a shaky leaf will start dancing in the corner of their little rectangle. That tells you that there is more information about that person to discover. Those shaky leaves are the primary reason you won't take a shower for at least a good month after starting this project. You will never be able to pull yourself away from the computer. If Intervention were still on, I imagine they would have eventually covered someone addicted to Ancestry.com.

These lovely people up in my family tree, including good ol' Easter and Abner Williams up there, are from my husband's side. We didn't know we had any Williams in the family tree. When you get started on this little journey, there will be all kinds of people you didn't know were in your tree.

That brings me to my next point...

#2 The ancestors' names:

You will discover some doozies. Some real doozies. I love when people look all sweet and stuff while patting their baby's head, "Oh, he was named after family" or "We chose a family name". Well, I'll tell you what, that's awesome. That's real awesome. We are glad you chose a family name. Here's the thing...all of our names are probably family names and you just don't know it. Case in point: Here are some family names I discovered after my short stint on Ancestry.com and they happen to be the names I gave to all of my kids.

My dad's grandfather's name was "Maffitt". All this time they just knew him as "Acie". Acie was his nickname. Maffitt was his real name. Just finding out that one little piece of information was fun.

You didn't know I had nine kids?

You caught me in a lie. You did, you did. I don't have 9 kids and none of them are named after any of those family pillars above. These are actual names of some of my ancestors, though. I bet Elzaney was a piece of work. If you don't go on Ancestry.com to find out important family history, at least go for the names. You may find you a Pernicia.

#3 The shared family trees:

Much of the fun stuff I have happened upon has been due to someone else finding it first and sharing it via their public tree. "Oh, well, it looks like we are both related to Rufus! How about that? What else have you discovered about the rascal?" These aren't actual conversations that I have out loud or even via messaging through the site. That's all in my head. I do get excited, though, when I see that someone else has found something about a long lost relative that I haven't found yet. You can verify facts and whatnot before you decide that you are sharing the same Rufus. My husband keeps asking, "Well, how do you know that is the same person?" Once you become an Ancestry.com expert (it only takes a couple of hours), you'll start realizing that if names, birth dates, death dates and location start to match up, you're probably talking about the same Rufus.

The other crazy thing about the public family trees is that will make you realize that you have a bunch of family you've never met. "Hey! My great-great-grandfather is in the Campbell/Williams/Taylor family tree! Say what? HE'S NOT YOUR RELATIVE, HE'S MINE!" I share that with you as a word of caution. If you start fiddling around on Ancestry.com too much and connecting with relatives you never knew you had, you're either going to get into a knockdown drag out or you are going to have to buy a lot of turkey at Thanksgiving. No one wants to see someone go to jail or go into bankruptcy buying turkeys because of Ancestry.com. Go easy, is all I'm sayin'.

#4 The pictures:

There have been many pictures I have come across during all of my snooping that I never knew existed before. You can connect with Facebook and those people on Facebook will pop up on the family tree. For some reason, Anna Vrak (born in 1838) or August Mueller (born in 1856) didn't have a Facebook picture pop up. Hmmm... These pictures I found below were from other people's public trees. The lady who looks like she's had enough of it all (top left) is "Neda" and she is from my side. The lady who is just under Neda looks scary. Right? A little bit? Yeah, she's from my husband's side.

Sometimes when people can't find a picture, they'll just pop a silhouette in there.

Can you guess which one is the really hot 1800s mama? Yep! You're right! That lower left-hand corner lady! HoooooWEEEE!!!!

#5 The resources:

There are just so many documents that Ancestry.com makes available to you. It really blows your mind. I imagine someone somewhere just feeding document after document after document after document endlessly into a scanner and then entering the information into a database. I am so thankful for those document feeders. I think I have learned the most about relatives and origin from the 1900 census, the 1850 census, the 1830 census, etc. The census is where it's at. There are also death certificates that will tell you a lot. I feel a little guilty looking at those, but...they are there. There are other documents, too, like war draft cards, obituaries, social security information and marriage records that are really hard to read.

A marriage record for Wade Hamilton Holt, who lived from 1824-1855. He is my third great-grandfather on my dad's side. He died at the age of 31 but his legacy and name live on and on. My son's middle name is Holt.

Here is some interesting information about the census:
The U.S. has taken a census of its population every ten years since 1790. The most recent census available to us at present is the 1940 census, due to a 72-year privacy restriction. While the questions in U.S. census records varied from year to year and in state censuses, from state to state, you can find information like names of other household members, ages, birthplaces, residence, occupation, immigration and citizenship details, marriage information, military service and more. The 1890 census was largely destroyed in a fire, but we have compiled a “substitute” with various other records to help bridge the gap.

This is a census I found for my grandmother's mother, Elsa. Everyone in my family always referred to her as "Elsie", but her given name must have been "Elsa", as that is what is listed on here. As far as I know, she was not named after the main character on Frozen.

Look at all of those Germans!

I could go on and on. I really could. There is just so much interesting things that I have learned. I think that if you try it out, you will see that Ancestry.com is user-friendly, thorough, well done and addicting. If you aren't interested in paying, you can learn so, so much in just those free two weeks. I hope that you will consider giving Ancestry.com a try. They are adding new documents all the time.

You will most definitely learn something new  that may change the way you look at the world!

And the way you look at that guy at Wal-Mart.

(He's probably your cousin.)

Go here to start your free trial.
(And then come back! I want to hear about what you find!)

Because the comment section is tore up from the floor up on this blog, we now talk amongst ourselves on Facebook. You can get there by clicking on the image below. Thanks!