Fri, Feb. 28

Ethnic Genealogy Research

When you hear the words "ethnic genealogy" you may think of Hispanic, African American or Japanese, but ethnic genealogy really encompasses all of us. Our great country is made up of lots of different groups of people who have blended to become Americans. Finding your "ethnic roots" really means learning the history of your ancestors, whether they sailed here, walked here or met the boats.

Begin with stories passed down through your family. We all have these stores - such as your great-grandfather and his brother came from Ireland in 1850 to escape the Potato Famine. With any story you must first check to see if what you were told fits with the history involved. If the Potato Famine was in 1850 then you could be on the right track. Expand on what you know by studying the history of the area your family lived both here and in their native land.

Depending on the nationality of your ancestors, you will find yourself searching different types of records. Many can find their ancestors in immigration and naturalization records, but if your family arrived before the Revolutionary War that won't always work. Not everyone came into the United States on the East Coast. They may have come from Canada as did the French Acadians, ancestors of many Cajuns, or they may have come into the West Coast and may have already been in an area when it became a state such as with many of the Western States.

African Americans, many of whom have ancestors who were slaves, will find themselves searching land records and wills where they may be named as part of the property. After the Civil War they may find records of their ancestors in Freedman's Bank Records, the first bank set up for Blacks, which is a valuable resource.

Our foster daughter is an Arapaho and finds herself looking at records the government kept on her tribe and records of land given to the Cheyenne­Arapaho, which she combines with her oral tribal history. A friend whose Japanese ancestors came into the country in the 1800s found that records kept on the Japanese by the government during World War II included her grandparents.

The ethnicity often includes religious groups. When immigrants came to this country they often located near others from their homeland, because they spoke the same language and attended the same church. Take a look at the predominant religion of the area where your family lived. Churches kept good records. The Catholic Church, for example, has extensive records, so if your family came from or lived in an area that was very Catholic you should look at those records.

The Internet is a great help in finding records and communicating with others who are researching. Take a look at an Internet site called Distant Cousins It has links to many different ethnic Web pages.

You may, at times, find yourself dealing with a language that you are unfamiliar with. Don't despair; there are language translation tools on the Internet. One that I like is on Google. Located on the Google home page you can enter the Internet address, and with a click translate the page into the language of your choice. This tool also aides you in writing to people in other countries. You can simply type your note and pick a language to translate it into. This is a word for word translation, so it probably won't read as smoothly but it will allow you to communicate.

So whether your ancestor's country of origin makes you Scandinavian, Polish, German, Hispanic, Irish, Scottish, Italian, Asian or one I've left out, you are more likely to locate them by studying their national history, looking at the area they settled, and then getting help from a society that specializes in your specific group. General questions can be sent to

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