Way back in junior high civics class, I learned that the US government is a three-legged stool. Lop off one leg, and executive, judicial or legislative power run amok topples the stool — and the country lands flat on its face.
My seventh-grade self was far too concerned with keeping Mr. Klaine from intercepting the note my best friend was passing me to marvel over the remarkable staying power of the US government. But since then (I’m happy to say), I’ve come to appreciate how our sturdy three-legged system has survived this nation’s tumultuous fast years, its devastating Civil War and, more recently, a hotly contested presidential election.
At Family Tree Magazine — the publication whose editors bring you this Trace Your Family History special issue — we believe that fully appreciating your heritage is a three-legged stool, too. These components keep your family tree from going timber:
?discovering who your ancestors were
?preserving what you know about them and the heirlooms they’ve left you
?celebrating their experiences
If you’re doing just the discovering part, you might wonder why all those names and dates even matter, Focus only on preserving, and you’ve got a collection of well-maintained photographs but no idea who’s in them. Do strictly the celebrating, and you miss out on the meaning behind the fun. But when you integrate the three — perhaps slightly skewing the balance toward your favorite part — learning about your family history suddenly becomes richly rewarding.
Putting these three pieces together can be tough, especially when you’re just starting a journey to your roots. That’s why we’ve assembled this package of user-friendly tips and tools to help you discover, preserve and celebrate your family history.
First, we cover genealogy research basics, including how to find essential family records and how to fill out pedigree charts. And you can depend on us to steer you away from fake family crests and time-wasting online research traps.
Heirlooms and photographs gain importance when you know a little about who owned them or who’s in them. Get advice on preserving these treasures for future generations. Pass on your clan’s tales, too, with our four-step plan for writing your family’s story.
Once you’ve learned a bit about your ancestors, step into their lives for a day by visiting one of the living history museums. As you forge closer connections with relatives, use our stress-free tips for keeping in touch through reunions and online newsletters.
At the end of each section — Discover, Preserve and Celebrate — we give you a roundup of indispensable resources, including Web sites, books, organizations and manufacturers.