July 14th, 2009
05:01 PM ET

Want to trace your roots?

Program Note: Tune in tonight for Joe Johns' report on tracing Michelle Obama's ancestral roots. Tonight on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.


Tracing a family history can often be harder than you might imagine. Genealogists spend countless hours tracking historical information and could put detectives to shame.

There are many sites and services that offer assistance in locating historical documents and family histories. Ancestry.com is a paid service that provide services such as starting a family tree, finding genealogical histories and connecting family members.

Check out more about how people are tracing their roots here. Let us know what you think! Do you think tracing genealogy is important? If so, how do you do it?

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Race in America
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. kbea831

    My local library in OKC has a subscription to ancestry.com that, as a library card holder, I can access using their computers for free. Public libraries are a great resource.

    July 15, 2009 at 6:59 am |
  2. Sabrina In Las Vegas

    The Mormons have the most detailed records.

    My family wasn't hard to track because they track us.

    I think DNA will be the best way to track everyone.

    July 14, 2009 at 11:22 pm |
  3. Carole

    I would give just about anything to be able to find my roots. Unfortunately, I'm adopted, and am not considered to be, according to the State of California, a responsible enough adult to handle that
    information. I am "of a certain age" and all I want is my medical history. I have hereditary illnesses – including a oredisposition to diabetes, cancer, and a hearing disability. My daughters suffer from rare hereditary diseases that do not run in their father's side of the family.

    There are thousands, if not millions, of adults across this country in similar situations who would love nothing better than to spend hours on ancestry.com doing what most people take for granted – finding out where they came from. Until laws are changed to allow adult adoptees access to their their birth records, as well as repealing the laws supporting baby abandonment to hospitals,etc., without threat of prosecution, there will continue to be more and more of us who constantly ask, "Who am I?". You should feel extremely fortunate if you know.

    July 14, 2009 at 11:18 pm |
  4. George Larson II, MA

    Genealogy doesn't need to be all that expensive. A lot of the information, such as the US Census are available at local libraries. I did much of my research, for free, using the genealogy annex at the Sonoma County (Calif) Public Library in Santa Rosa. If interested (and not in Sonoma County), give your library a call and speak to the reference librarian s/he might know where to look, or, if you live in the area where your ancestors settled (i.e., if you live in Virginia or New England and your family's been there for 100, 200, 400 years), check with your local historical society or go online and check to see if there's a local genealogy club or society in your area. What research, of any sort, takes is not so much money but rather an investment in time and a willingness to review microfilm, microfiche, musty dusty old newspapers or scan line after line of census forms. And to one other commentator who would like to know more about his Indian (I assume American Indian) heritage, it depends on the nation you're ancestor was a part of but yes, there are what are known as Indian Rolls that are the equivalent of a census record, just as there were Slave Rolls until 1860, so if you know which nation/tribe your ancestor was from, there is a chance you can find her or his name on one of those rolls.

    July 14, 2009 at 9:48 pm |
  5. Kathy, Chicago

    My cousin traced our roots in Ireland. I really don't think that we need to spend thousands of dollars to trace the Obama's roots during this economic crisis.

    July 14, 2009 at 9:34 pm |
  6. Cindy H - Ontario Canada

    It's great to know these things, sometimes you are surprised by what you find. A few months back I started to do searches on the internet and to my surprise I was able to trace back to the 1600's. I also found 'current' distant relatives. I'm sure I could have found more out, but it is extremely time consuming. The site that gave me the most was familysearch.org.
    and it was free. So you don't need money to find out at least some information on your ancestors.

    July 14, 2009 at 9:29 pm |
  7. Annie Kate

    I have traced my family back to the original immigrant to America on several lines. Its fascinating to see who in your family was at what event in history and I use it to help my children learn history – its so much more interesting you know when you know your great great whatever was at the event. My favorite is my 11 times great grandmother in Salem who was hung for a witch!

    July 14, 2009 at 9:23 pm |
  8. Lydia

    Yes, I too, am interested, but do not have the funds to pay for the information. I do know though that cousins on my Dad's side of the family traced our roots back to our family crest in Wales. And, I would really like to know if there is a way I can gain access to that information, also.

    July 14, 2009 at 8:29 pm |
  9. Jeanene Vomocil

    Genealogy is important to me because it has shown me my family's place in world history and has helped me learn more about history now than when I was in school. History is now fascinating!

    July 14, 2009 at 8:16 pm |
  10. George Larson II, MA

    I started tracing genes when an undergrad nearly 20 years back. What started off as a way for me to look for relationships, rivalries & agendas among Britain's royal & noble families eventually trickled down through to early immigrants to America where I bumped into some of my own ancestors (thus making some of those upper crusts my ancestors, too). Branching out to look at the siblings of my ancestors and their descendants I found a generous number of farmers, merchants and the like, as well as some folks whose names & faces are familiar to many. But, while its fun to find you're related to, say, Anderson Cooper or Barack Obama (no matter how distantly), for me what I found especially interesting was discovering that two one my childhood friends, one of whom I still keep in touch with, were long-lost cousins, and that one of my professors who saw me through undergrad & grad school, was, yep, a long-lost cousin. While so far as I can tell all my ancestors came from Europe, I do know that out there I have relatives who are part African, part Asian, part American Indian, part Arab, part Iranian, part Jewish and so on. For me knowing that however many generations ago one of my ancestors sat next to someone else's at the dinner table kicking each other while their parents' told them to knock it off makes our shared humanity even more poignant and special.

    July 14, 2009 at 7:50 pm |
  11. Sonia

    In 1791 my grandfather came from Marseille, France and when he passed away, he left a Last Will and Testament, it's so amazing and we are so grateful for that. It's now filed in the Library of Congress.

    July 14, 2009 at 7:44 pm |
  12. Jim,Calif

    I've been doing my tree for about a year on Ancestry have 7200 people
    fortunatly a lot of info from distant cousins.

    July 14, 2009 at 7:02 pm |
  13. Naissa, Deep in the HEART of Texas

    We're in a recession! I can't afford to be spending money on that right now no matter how much I'd like to!

    July 14, 2009 at 6:58 pm |
  14. Ed Hubble Folom Ca.

    Tracing my roots and Indian heritage is vrey important to me ,But they have no paperwork for Indians, So I would just like to Win Beat 360 . Tks to you and Erica

    July 14, 2009 at 6:52 pm |