Family Life

Dig Into Your History

It’s November, and the smell of turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce is already floating in the air. Thanksgiving is a time when friends and family come together to celebrate one another. Some families might go around the table and share what they’re thankful for or wake up early in the morning for the classic Turkey Trot fun run; either way, Thanksgiving is a time to reflect and spend time with
loved ones.

This November, shake things up a bit and dig into your family history. If you’re looking to celebrate Thanksgiving in a different way this year, or digging into your history has been on the to-do list, but you’ve never gotten to it, here are some reasons why learning about your heritage is important and how to get started.

Where to Start
There are several ways to begin digging into your family’s history, but the best way to start is by talking to relatives and gathering documents or memorabilia. By sitting down and chatting with your relatives (especially the older ones), you can learn about stories and traditions and get a head start on the family tree. They might be able to point you in the right direction when it comes to finding
photographs, letters, certificates, and other related memorabilia.

This begins the process of tracking your family history, and this can be one of the most fun steps. Hearing stories about great-grandparents can be a fun and engaging Thanksgiving dinner
discussion. Even the little ones in the family will enjoy “scavenging” through boxes of special things.

Another step to take is to begin creating a family tree. There are genealogy softwares and online tools to make this process easier, like, MyHeritage, or FamilySearch.

A good tip to remember is to begin with what you know and gradually work backward, adding more generations as you uncover information.

Skipping the Scavenging
Speaking to family members or collaborating on a family tree can make great memories, but it can feel overwhelming or take a lot of effort. If you want to skip a few steps, try a DNA test to get faster results without the work and hustle.

DNA testing can be a powerful tool for individuals looking to dig deeper into their family history and heritage. There are several benefits of doing DNA testing, like finding out your ethnicity and geographic origins, connecting with distant relatives, confirming the paper trail, and even learning more about your health and family genetics.

“Genetic ancestry is based upon a person’s DNA, which can be traced back to the genetic sequences of their ancestors,” states the National Institute of Standards and Technology. “So, if a person’s ancestry report says they are 34% East Asian, then that means that person has genetic DNA most similar to the population of the people living in that geographic location now.”

There are several DNA testing companies in Baton Rouge, like Choice DNA and Premier Lab Testing, where you can learn more about your family history.

While on your journey to learn more about your heritage, you might connect with a relative you didn’t know you had. When others with similar DNA have taken the same test and opted to share their results, you can potentially identify cousins, second cousins, and more, which can lead to new family connections and discoveries.

My grandfather has quite a few wild and intriguing family stories, especially about the history behind my family’s last name. He often shares two contrasting narratives, both shrouded in mystery and intrigue. In one version of the story, our ancestors changed the family name when they immigrated to the United States because they wanted to assimilate into their new homeland and wanted to avoid potential prejudice by having a Jewish last name, which, at the time, was Cohen. In a more daring twist to the family lore, my grandfather spins the tale of a bold bank robber who, in a bid to evade the relentless pursuit of the police, cleverly changed his name.

Whether rooted in fact or fiction, these stories have added a layer of mystique to our family’s history. By using DNA Testing, it can help confirm or challenge the paper trail and word-of-mouth that has been passed down through the generations. Nonetheless, thrilling family stories should continue to be passed down because they’re great conversation starters and exciting tales.

Another benefit if you go down the DNA testing route is some places can offer health-related information based on your genetic DNA. This can help your family learn valuable information about potential genetic health risks that might be running in the family.

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