Memorial Day is a day set aside every year to pay our respects to the men and women who have lost their lives fighting for our country. It’s an important day for every man, woman and child living in America, and it’s a great day to spend some time learning a little about your own family’s history, especially if you have some military history in your past. If you come from a military family, or if you’ve even got one or two veterans in your past, this is the perfect time to learn a little more about the contributions of your relatives. Here are five ways to research your family history this Memorial Day.
Talk To Your Family
The best way to learn about the past is to simply ask someone who was there. If your parent or grandparent served in the military, use the day to talk to him or her about what the experience was like. If your family member is willing, be sure to invite the kids so everyone can spend some time not only learning about what your relative did while in the military, but also honoring the men and women that lost their lives fighting overseas.
Visit The Library
It may seem like everything is online these days, but you may be surprised to learn just how much is still only available at your local library. From old records to microfiche to databases not available to the public, there are lots of resources worth a trip to the library. If you aren’t sure where to start, be sure to ask a librarian for some help. He or she will be happy to show you the best resources to help you track down the military history within your family.
There are many different websites to help you research your family tree. One of the biggest is Ancestry.com, but that’s not the only site to help you track down your long-lost relatives. Check out Fold3, which is one of the largest databases for tracking down your family’s military past. You can also access the National Archives Resources for Genealogists, which includes almost all federal military, census and immigration records. World Vital Records is another digitized index with access to military records, so it’s also worth a try.
Check The Census Records
You’ll be amazed at how much information you can find in the U.S. Census Records, which have been taken every 10 years since 1790. You can search the census records in person if you live near the National Archives in Washington D.C., but the Census website has a lot of helpful information as well, as more and more of the past census records are finally landing online. Spend a little time browsing the site for all the information you’ll need to research your family history.
Ellis Island Records
Did you know that you don’t have to visit Ellis Island in New York to access the databases there? The Liberty Ellis Foundation has brought more than 51 million passenger records online, all available to research with the click of a button. Search by name, then find the arrival year, last known place of residence, the name of the ship that brought your relative over, and more. You can even view a picture of the ship itself and take a look at the ship manifest. It’s an amazing amount of information, and you don’t have to book a plane ticket to access it. So this Memorial Day, make the most of your time and research your family’s history. You may just be surprised at what you learn.
Deborah Flomberg is a theater professional, freelance writer and Denver native. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.