My Experience Doing Genealogy Research

Four Generations on My Father's Side

My great-grandmother, great aunt, daughter of my great aunt, and daughter of the daughter of my great aunt
My great-grandmother, great aunt, daughter of my great aunt, and daughter of the daughter of my great aunt | Source

Examining My Roots

Since a young boy, I have always been interested in my ancestral roots. This interest was first generated by stories of my grandparents and great-grandparents told by my father and mother. It was later stimulated by looking at old family pictures and most recently by viewing some photos of great-grandparents and a great-great-grandmother shared by one of my paternal cousins.

In this article, I first relate my initial attempts in doing research of my ancestors. I then describe some of the joys and sorrows searching for ancestors using .

Initial Attempts Doing Ancestral Research

Shortly after retiring from teaching in April of 2014, I resolved to do genealogy research. I didn't get started with this project, however, until the summer of 2015 after my kidney operation.

Before beginning, I googled for a listing of free online genealogy research websites and found several. Some of the sites which I examined were,, The Olive Tree,, GeneaBios, and Familytree Searches. I also found some genealogy tips on

I found the most useful site, however, when using it and other free sites, I always reached a point where I was referred to for more information. Seeing that I was always hitting a brick wall when using free sites, I decided to invest in a membership on where I was fairly sure of finding more of my ancestors.

Expectations Prior to Using

Before paying for an all access membership to use all of Ancestry's services, I expected to be able to use's extensive files to identify all of my ancestors at least 300 years back into Europe. I had this expectation because I was paying for access to birth, death, and marriage records both inside and outside of the United States. With an all access membership, I would also have access to all immigration, naturalization, ships' passenger lists, and military records both inside and outside of the U.S. I would also be able to research a lot of old newspapers.

One Month After Using

After using Ancestry services for almost one month now, I have been able to identify many of my ancestors, however, I have been having problems finding any relation prior to my paternal great-grandfather. The whole experience so far has been exciting, challenging, and at times very frustrating. The joys and sorrows of my experience are detailed below.

A Genealogy Family Tree

A diagram of a family tree
A diagram of a family tree | Source

Joys of Using

There are a number of advantages in using which have made my genealogy research interesting and rewarding. Some of the joys in using Ancestry are as follow:

1. Excellent Software for Making and Viewing Family Trees

I have always wanted to make a family tree and trace it back in history as far as I can. provides excellent programs for making family trees. After starting with dates of birth and names for my mother, father, and myself, Ancestry starts constructing a family tree which can grow in theory to infinity. The tree can show pictures of ancestors and be presented in different views. In a pedigree view, I am able to see the location on the tree of all ancestors and how they relate to me. Using a non-pedigree view, I can select any ancestor or living relative and view the persons directly related to them.

2. Excellent Profiles

In addition to building family trees, Ancestry has an excellent program for displaying profiles of all ancestors. The profile consists of added facts from researched documents, newspaper articles, pictures, and stories written by living relatives. Facts are listed chronologically with a link to documents. In addition, there is a life story or biography of ancestors. Significant historical events in an ancestor's life many also be added to a life story.

3. Extensive Online Documents and Files

If you elect to get an all access Ancestry membership, you have access to a multitude of birth, death, marriage, and census records both inside and outside of the United States. You can also look up immigration and naturalization, ships' passenger lists, military records, and historical articles from selected limited U.S. newspapers.

4. Hints for Finding Information

Ancestry hints have made my genealogy research much easier. After you enter the name of an ancestor with a date of birth, death, and/or residence, Ancestry's computers scan their databases for any records pertaining to your ancestor. If there are any records from censuses, birth, death, and other documents plus previous family research on ancestors, a leaf appears next to the ancestor in your tree. By clicking on the leaf, you will get hints about the names of parents, spouse, and children of your ancestors.

5. Tutorials tutorials have been of assistance in guiding my research. These tutorials have shown me how to use various search functions and strategies in finding my missing ancestors both inside and outside of the United States.

6. Family Trees May Be Shared with Relatives

I have three sisters who are very interested in my genealogy research and the family trees that I have built. allows me to invite sisters and other relatives to view my ancestry research.

7. Contact with Other Ancestry Researchers

A cousin on my father's side and one on my mother's side of the family have previously done research on both my father's and mother's ancestors. I have recently contacted my paternal cousin and she has shared a lot of information about my great-grandparents.

A German Article

Death card in German for a paternal great-great-grandmother
Death card in German for a paternal great-great-grandmother | Source

Sorrows of Using

Although I have had exciting finds using, there have been a share of disappointments which have caused unhappiness. Some of these sorrows are as follow:

1. Difficulty Finding Information Using Searches

I have tried a number of filters and schemes in searching for records on and most of the time I have come up empty-handed. Searching is a daunting task because I never realized that there were so many persons with the exact same name of my ancestors. Most frustrating for me has been trying to identify the father and mother of my paternal great-grandfather. I can't find any records for brothers of sisters of my great-grandfather which has also affected my searches.

2. Limited Access to Newspaper Articles

Although I have paid for access to some historical newspapers, the newspapers in the towns and cities where my father, mother, grandparents, and great-grandparents lived are not available on line. Hence I have no access to possible articles written while they were alive.

3. Expense

Although the first two weeks of are free, I have to pay $45 monthly after that period for an all acess membership. This all access is misleading, however, because if I want to have access to more historical newspapers, I must pay an extra $11 monthly , and extra money for access to Ancestry Archives. If I want to explore my genealogy DNA, I also have to pay more monthly.

4. Dates and Spelling of Names Are a Challenge

Most census records prior to 1940 don't give an exact date of birth. For example, my father was listed as being born about 1918, when in fact he was born on March 10, 1916. There are also a lot of variant spellings for the surnames of my mother and father.

5. German Sources

All of the records listing my great-grandfather's service in the Prussian Army during 1870 are in German as they appear in military records. A death card for a great-great-grandmother is also in German. Unfortunately I am not very proficient in written German.

6. Little or Limited Information about Living Relatives

I have been unable to find any information about my living cousins on Ancestry. For my brother and sisters, however, I have been able to find one or two items from birth or marriage records.


During the past month on, I have found that genealogy research is not easy and can definitely be a full-time job. Before I invest money in another month of full access on Ancestry and perhaps pay extra to get into Ancestry Archives, I want to make sure I can find missing information for my ancestors, and especially for the family line prior to my great-grandfather.

Genealogy Research Websites

Which Online Genealogy Research Website Have You Used?

  • The Olive Tree
  • Other
See results without voting

© 2016 Paul Richard Kuehn

Comments 4 comments

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 7 weeks ago

I have wondered about my ancestry, beyond what I was told over the years. I will keep your valuable information in mind should I decide to pursue this research. I think it would be interesting to discover what important events happened in the lives of my ancestors.

BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 7 weeks ago from Victoria, Australia

Doing family tree research is such fun and there are so many resources available for the family sleuth. It's also a great way of reviving old family ties, making contact with long-forgotten cousins and learning more about world history, too. So glad that you're enjoying it.

Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 7 weeks ago from Udorn City, Thailand Author

Yes, my family tree research has been a lot of fun. Sometimes, however, it gets frustrating when I can't find the information I am looking for. Thanks for the comments.

Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 7 weeks ago from Udorn City, Thailand Author

I have learned a lot about the important events which occurred during the lives of my ancestors. Thanks for your comments!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article