You’ve probably seen the advertisements for Ancestry.ca (or dot-com elsewhere).
A few weeks ago I decided to give it a test-drive and I must say I’m hooked! The program isn’t doing all the work, mind you, as I leaf through two or three family-specific books that have been largely ignored by other members of the immediate family. These books, with help from the software, trace my grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on, as well as their siblings and spouses. On two different branches I’m back to the 1600s already – and the program tells me (with a list of names up the chain) the exact relationship of a “find” to me, e.g. “eighth great-grandfather”. Sometimes I have found there to be no relationship as it is very easy to get sidetracked by one relationship or another.
I was happy to get as far back as emigration to Canada (from England, Ireland and Scotland) but now I’ve found a relative, nicknamed “Billy the Picket” for his talents fighting in the Irish Rebellion of 1798.
It’s also interesting to see how surnames have evolved from, in a few cases, Norman France.
What neither the books nor the software give me are enough details to write stories (at least not non-fiction tales!)
Someone asked me the other day if I had pinned down my relationship, if any, to Charlie Chaplin. I must get on that!