Out on a Limb: Catching Roots Mania

By David A. Fryxell Premium

When you grow up with a last name like “Fryxell,” learning something about your family tree is a must. “It’s a Swedish army name,” I learned to answer the inevitable question, “What kind of name is that?” I knew the rest by heart: Back in my ancestors’ Sweden, most of the population shared a handful of surnames — Magnusson, Svensson, Andersson, etc. — so when you got drafted the Army made you pick a more unusual name. Otherwise, when the drill sergeant hollered, “Svensson, step forward!” (in Swedish, of course), half the troop might respond. When the rest of my family fled the draft to America, ironically, they kept the lone draftee’s Army name of “Fryxell” (otherwise it would have been “Magnusson,” and my grade-school life would have been much simpler).

Only much later did I come across a fellow Fryxell’s family-tree research and learn more about those Swedish roots. And only this year, with the help of the new FamilySearch Web site, did I discover that first Fryxell was actually born in Denmark.

I’m hardly alone. Lately it seems everybody in America has caught “roots mania,” as Time magazine called it in a cover story last spring. As we Baby Boomers age, we’re getting curious about where we came from. Though genealogy has always been popular, the influx of new roots researchers has made it America’s fastest-growing hobby.

Obviously, the time is right to launch Family Tree Magazine — helping you discover, preserve and celebrate your family’s history

But it’s not just the boom in genealogy that makes us so excited about Family Tree Magazine. Nor is this strictly a “genealogy magazine.” Family Tree Magazine is also about:

• Computers and the Internet, which have made genealogy information that once was relegated to a dusty library corner as close as a mouse click. Don’t miss this issue’s 50 tips to make you a more productive user of Family Tree Maker software, or the guides to Web sites and other software in our Toolkit section. Throughout the magazine, you can always spot Web addresses — they’re enclosed in <angle brackets like these>.

You’ll also find a wealth of resources on our own site, <>, which is constantly updated. You can sign up there for our free e-mail newsletter, and you can even get a free e-mail account. Use your free account — “” — to organize your family-history-related e-mail; you can access it from anywhere you can access the Web.

Our Web site also puts powerful search tools at your fingertips. Confused by the wealth of research riches online? Our site lets you tap the best genealogy how-to sites with one SuperSearch. You can also “SuperSearch” more than a dozen of the biggest databases of names on the Web — totaling more than 1 billion entries — with one click. And you can find your living relatives with another instant search of hundreds of millions more names.

• Historic travel and family reunions are helping people connect with their heritage. For the best places to plan your next reunion, see this issue’s “First Resorts.” If you’re Irish, we’ve got tips on making a trip back to the old country. And every issue of Family Tree Magazine will feature Living History, a roundup of events that put you in touch with the past.

• Scrapbooks and memory albums are putting a creative spin on the old family photo album; 20 percent of U.S. families have already discovered “scrapbooking.” You can try it yourself with the help of our Preserving Memories column in every issue. But first make sure that your precious family photos are safe — follow our tips.

You may also want to try capturing your memories in words. Contributing editor Sharon DeBartolo Carmack gets you started “Writing Your Life Story,” while two best-sellers share their secrets: October Sky’s Homer H. Hickam Jr., and Angela’s Ashes author Frank McCourt.

We also invite you to share your memories and family-history stories, particularly those that might spark a smile. You, the readers, will write each issue’s Everything’s Relative column. Please take a look and then e-mail your own contribution to We’ll pay a $25 thank-you for every item we use.

We’re also eager to hear your thoughts on this premiere issue and how we can help you even more — write Letters, Family Tree Magazine, Make sure you fill out the postage-paid survey that follows: We’ll let you know how to subscribe to Family Tree Magazine, and you might win $100 in genealogy books.

And if you come across any Fryxells out there, send ’em my way.
From the January 2000 Family Tree Magazine