1. Follow your family back in the census
2. Locate your family’s graves
Tombstone research—a genealogy project that could never have been done from your den back when—is increasingly internet-friendly. Dedicate a weekend to poring over your genealogy files for blanks in burials and deaths. Make a list of everybody for whom you don’t have an exact death and burial date and place, then crank up your computer. (And while filling in those blanks, of course, you also may come across missing birth information.)
3. Post your family tree online.
To be honest, this is unlikely to take a whole weekend unless you’re starting data entry from scratch. But you might need Saturday and Sunday both to decide among all the options. Some sites add tempting perks for parking your pedigree there, such as the ability on Ancestry.com to view and research your tree with its smartphone app. Once you’ve uploaded to MyHeritage.com (which also has an app), the site will comb its 1 billion profiles for matches to your data, and email you when new matches go online. WeRelate, the world’s largest genealogy wiki, also combines pedigree posting with research and “watch lists.” Or you might want to put your tree on one of the many sites that specialize in family tree hosting. Among those we included in our latest 101 Best Websites roundup were AGES-Online, Family Pursuit, Geni, Tribal Pages and WikiTree. Most have collaboration features that make it a snap to spend your weekend polishing your pedigree with distant cousins.
4. Find ancestors in the news
It’s easy to overlook old newspapers as a resource because in the past, they’ve been a pain to research. Without some sort of index, finding ancestors in newspapers makes locating a needle in a haystack look easy.
5. Solve immigration mysteries
As a nation of immigrants, nothing gnaws at us like not knowing how our ancestors got here. Set aside a weekend to try to fill in those blanks. Make a list of ancestors you believe were the first in the family to arrive in America, their birth dates, where they may have emigrated from, where they landed here, and when you think they may have arrived (or the date of the first US record you have of them). Add each ancestor’s siblings, as immigrants often booked passage in family groups, as well as spouses and children if they were a family before coming to America.
6. Read up on your ancestral hometown
Even if they weren’t famous, your ancestors might have made history of sorts in their hometowns. As the nation matured, America’s middle-sized towns took a lot of pride in their pasts and often published local histories recording everything from early settlers to hometown boys’ military service, from prominent families to entrepreneurial efforts large and small. These town histories have increasingly been digitized to find a wider audience concerned with who ran the town’s first grocery store—namely you, that pioneering grocer’s descendant.
7. Salute your patriot ancestors
Speaking of wars, ancestors who served in the Revolutionary War can be the key to striking genealogical gold in the Daughters of the American Revolution’s (DAR) Genealogical Research System (GRS). But these interlocking databases are worth a weekend’s exploration even if you don’t think you have a DAR-recognized “patriot ancestor.” Somebody in your family tree may overlap with the pedigree of somebody else who does qualify for DAR membership. Those folks are among the 7.1 million people named in the Descendants part of the GRS. This database crosslinks with files of patriot ancestors and of DAR members who qualified based on their service.