A funny thing happened on the way to the future… It became easier to look at our past.
With the advent of the Internet and the digitization of many public files and records, free ancestry search sites and paid services have sprung up everywhere, offering curious citizens a chance to find ancestors from a few hundred years ago, and in some cases, even back to prehistoric times. Even if you are unwilling to shell out the cash for a paid service, you can get surprisingly far using a no charge service to access free ancestry records, and find your ethnic, geographic, and cultural identity.
Genealogy used to be a truly daunting prospect, and involved meticulous combing of birth records, marriage records, death records, immigration registries, census data, and news articles where the only search criteria you had was a general time frame. While this method allowed you to find your ancestors for free, the lack of cost was more than made up for in time and energy spent, and the journey was undertaken by none but the heartiest of family tree tracers.
But the Internet has changed all of that, by the simple virtue of being able to search a document, once it has been scanned and digitized, for specific names, dates, places, and phrases. What once took months, even years, can now be done in minutes. With more and more free ancestry records being uploaded every day, the depth and breadth of genealogical research can seem limitless.
In fact, National Geographic has gone a step further. The “Genographic Project” is attempting to trace the origins and migration patterns of the first human beings, all based on the DNA patterns of current inhabitants of our planet. For a fee, NatGeo will send a kit containing instructions and a cheek swap, for curious patrons to send back for DNA analysis. Not only is the patron provided with an extensive genealogy of their family DNA through the ages, but each participant helps provide a clearer picture for the world to understand where we came from, and how we got where we are today.
Whether you take advantage of free ancestry records or pay to have them researched for you, never take for granted the wonder of the Information Age. Never forget the countless generations who toiled in paper, papyrus, and stone, to research and record the lineage of kings and commoners alike. And do your best to find your place among them.