How Can I Find Out Who I Am Related To?

Category: Genealogy

Family relations are fascinating to many people. Who am I related to? is a question that virtually everyone can answer to a limited degree. You probably know your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, and biological children. But beyond one or two degrees of separation lie thousands of members of your extended family. To trace who you are related to now, you need to go back in time to some point in history. Here are some tools to help you dig into your ancestry...

Finding Relatives and Ancestors

Finding Relatives and Ancestors

Looking to fill out your family tree? Go to the Digital Roots Relative Finder site, a database of several million dead and living persons, and their relationships to one another. Create a user account for yourself and a "group" under which to store the persons found in your search for relatives.

To start your research, you need at least one Ancestral File Number, a number used by genealogy data gatherers worldwide to uniquely identify a person's relationships record. You can look up the AFN of a deceased relative known to you - i.e., a grandparent - at Family Search. While you're there you can download free genealogy software to keep track of all the family connections you will find!

Enter the name and AFN of one of your known ancestors in the Digital Roots Relative Finder query page, and it will give you a report of famous ancestors, saints, royalty and other figures from your family tree. But that does not tell you who is alive and related to you today, does it?

The "famous" reports may include celebrities who are living now, but the vast majority of results will be long-dead ancestors. There are simply more people dead than alive! But with these ancient ancestors come their AFNs, and from those you can trace their descendants to the present day... to some degree.

The closer you come to the current time, the less inclusive genealogy databases tend to be. There's simply a lag between births and their entries into genealogy databases. At the other extreme, the further back in time you go the sparser the records of your ancestors will be. That's due to antiquated records that may have been destroyed in fires, floods, etc., or simply not discovered yet by genealogists.

Many people are surprised to learn how many famous relatives they have, or that they are much closer to the throne of some monarchy than they ever imagined. Sometimes genealogy produces ironic results.

In July, 2009, a white police officer named James Crowley arrested a black Harvard professor named Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The incident touched off a firestorm of racial controversy that ended with the two men sharing beers with President Barack Obama in the White House. That was wild enough, but the best was yet to come! A diligent journalist discovered that these two adversaries are related - distant cousins connected by a common Irish ancestor named Niall "of the Nine Hostages." Niall lived in the 4th Century, and created the foundation of Irish genealogy because he had so many offspring to keep track of.

I should also mention DNA testing for genealogy. The advancement of study into human DNA has revealed that DNA can be used as a tool for determining ancestry. It turns out that DNA is passed down through the generations, leaving telltale markers of family relationships that can extend back a thousand years. A simple DNA test can show whether two people are related, if they are descended from a common ancestor, and can even give clues about future potential health risks. Services such as 23andMe, Ancestry.com, and many others offer DNA testing for a fee.

Do you have something to say about finding relatives and ancestors? Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "How Can I Find Out Who I Am Related To?"

Posted by:

Hulda K. Guðjónsdóttir
06 Aug 2010

Hi Bob
Here in Iceland all Icelanders, young or old, are listed in a database on www.islendingabok.is (Book of Icelanders). Also there are a lot of Icelandic ancestors for hundreds of years listed as well, information taken from various books, since we have always been very interested in genealogy. Maybe the main reason is that we Icelanders are so few. We are just over 300 thousand people living on our island. :)
But in Islendingabok I can check out any other Icelander and see how I am related to him/her. Almost all of us are related to each other, some distant, some close. It's brilliant!
Best regards, Hulda
P.S. This big database is also used in medical science, i.e. to find chromosomes that are carrying various diseases from one generation to another. H


Posted by:

r steele
07 Aug 2010

parents: alexander williams; Mamie H whitehead both born 1913 marion al.


Posted by:

douglas Kraak
07 Aug 2010

No thanks. I don't want the Mormons having any of my information. It would be nice to have a genealogy group without the religious intonations and who will ultimately use the information to their advantage.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm not a Mormon, but it's always been my impression that the LDS church was doing a good thing by offering their genealogy databases online for free. Do you have any information that might suggest otherwise?


Posted by:

Pam
08 Aug 2010

Does the LDS church, whose information the above draws upon, then collect the information one inputs in order to extend the data base? Any way to find out?


Posted by:

Michael
11 Aug 2010

Do they have a site in Europe for people that lived in Eastern Europe ( Romania)?


Posted by:

Tom Bullock
12 Aug 2010

I have been using Legacy Family Tree free version for several years and find it hugely powerful, very effective in keeping track of all the different persons in the family, especially as I go back in time, but also as my children add spouses and their own children. Great aid for remembering birth dates, and preparation for family reunions. Here is the web site: http://legacyfamilytree.com/


Posted by:

Bob Krampetz
31 Dec 2011

Just tried it, it want's my "new.familysearch" ID, but that is only being given to LDS members.. You need to update your page.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Do you mean FamilySearch.org? I just did several searches there and it didn't ask me for anything like that.


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