How To Trace Ancestry: Impact of Events That Shaped Their Lives

We will show you just how easy it is to explore the fascinating stories of individuals who brought us all to where we stand today—our ancestors!

✍🏻 Written by Dr. Laura Whitman from MemoryCherish

In today’s world, it’s easier than ever to trace ancestry, with tools like public archives, genealogy databases, and DNA testing kits at your disposal. By exploring the decisions made by your ancestors and the impact they’ve had on your life, you can uncover the overarching themes that have shaped your identity. This process of discovery can also unearth compelling stories of your ancestors, stories that might naturally lend themselves to be shared in meaningful contexts – such as a heartfelt tribute during a memorial service. For guidance on crafting such narratives, feel free to explore our examples on our funeral speech writing page.

trace ancestry

How to Trace Ancestry

Step 1: Identify the Event

The first step towards tracing the impact of historical events on your ancestors’ lives is to identify the significant events during their time. Here’s how you can do it:

1.1 Start By Collecting Information About Your Ancestors

Creating a family tree is an essential first step in understanding your ancestry. It involves collecting as much information as possible about your ancestors, including their names, birth dates, locations, and migration patterns. Traditionally, this information was passed down through generations by word of mouth or held in family bibles, but today, online genealogy websites offer a wealth of resources to help you create your family tree.

You can start by interviewing relatives and collecting old documents such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, wills, and deeds. Family photographs, letters, and other personal documents can also offer valuable insights into your family’s past. Don’t forget to take notes and keep a detailed record of your research to make it easier to connect the dots later.

trace ancestry

Once you have gathered as much information as possible, organize it into a family tree using templates available on genealogy websites or software applications. You can start with yourself and work backward through your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. By tracing your family’s history, you might discover surprising family connections or previously unknown relatives.

In addition to creating a family tree, other tools like DNA testing can help shed light on your ancestors’ origins and help establish connections with living relatives. By combining DNA testing with genealogical research, you can gain a complete picture of your ancestry and how it relates to historical events.

Creating a comprehensive family tree can be a time-consuming process, but it’s essential for tracing the impact of historical events on your ancestors’ lives. With a clear understanding of your family’s history, you’ll be better equipped to research and understand the broader historical events that influenced their lives.

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1.2 Search for Major Historical Events

Now that you have a preliminary understanding of your ancestors’ background, you can start to explore the significant historical events that impacted their lives. By researching and understanding these events, you can gain a deeper insight into the motivations and behaviors of your ancestors and the context of the times in which they lived.

Major historical events can encompass a wide range of topics, from political and social upheavals to cultural shifts and technological advancements. Depending on the time and place, major events might include wars, political revolutions, natural disasters, pandemics, industrialization, or religious movements.

trace ancestry

To find the major events relevant to your ancestors, you’ll need to research the local and global historical contexts of the places and times they lived in. Genealogical websites, online databases, historical archives, and local libraries can all provide valuable resources to guide your research.

Start by researching the time and location your ancestors lived in and look for events that might have impacted their lives. For instance, if your ancestors lived during the Civil War in the United States, you might want to examine the causes of the war, significant battles, and the social impact of the war on the regions where your ancestors lived.

Moreover, you might want to look for historical events that shaped the industries or professions your ancestors worked in. For example, if your ancestors worked in the textile industry in the 19th century, you could look at the Industrial Revolution and its impact on this industry.

In addition, understanding the historical context and major events also helps you to create a more comprehensive story of your family’s heritage and their contributions to society. It can also help you to preserve their legacies for future generations.

Ultimately, researching and understanding the major historical events that shaped the lives of your ancestors can be instrumental in building a more comprehensive and accurate representation of your family’s history. So, start your research now and explore the events that defined your ancestors’ lives.

Step 2: Research the Event

The second step is to research the event in-depth to gain a better understanding of how it shaped your ancestors’ lives. Here’s how you can do it:

2.1 Start With Online Research

The internet is an invaluable resource for historical research, providing access to vast amounts of information that would have been almost impossible to obtain in the past. With the click of a button, you can access articles, blog posts, academic papers, and other materials related to the event you’re researching, as well as primary sources of information.

To find relevant information about the historical event, use search engines, such as Google or Bing, to look for articles and blog posts from reputable websites. Check the author’s credentials and the website’s credibility before using the information.

In addition to articles and blog posts, you can also explore online archives and databases to find primary sources of information, such as newspapers, government records, and historical societies. For example, Library of Congress’ Chronicling America offers access to more than 15 million digitized newspaper pages from 1789 to 1963. Meanwhile, the National Archives provides access to the U.S. federal government’s records, from the Bill of Rights to the most recent congressional sessions.

trace ancestry

When browsing online archives and databases, keep in mind that not all historical events are equally documented, and some sources may be biased or incomplete. Therefore, consider consulting multiple sources and cross-referencing them to ensure the accuracy of the information.

One benefit of online research is the ability to save and organize your findings with digital tools. By using note-taking apps, like Evernote or Google Keep, you can capture and organize information systematically.

Through online research, you can gain a deep understanding of the historical events that shaped your ancestors’ lives and use this knowledge to build a more complete picture of their family history. So, start your research today, and access the vast resources available at your fingertips.

Don’t forget that MemoryCherish offers photo restoration services that can help preserve and celebrate your family’s history. Our expert restoration technicians can turn old, faded, or damaged photos into vibrant, high-quality images that you’ll be proud to display. Contact us now to start restoring your family’s precious memories.

2.2 Look for Physical Sources

While online research can provide a wealth of information, sometimes the best way to understand an event is to connect with it on a personal level. By visiting physical sites that relate to your ancestry, you can gain a deeper understanding of the historical events that shaped their lives.

Museums, libraries, and historical archives can offer a wealth of resources that can help bring history to life. By viewing artifacts, browsing exhibits, and exploring collections, you can begin to visualize the world your ancestors inhabited, gaining a personal connection to the past.

You might also come across old photos, maps, letters, or diaries that provide a personal account of the event and your ancestors’ experience. These sources can offer valuable insights that cannot be found through online research alone.

Visiting physical sites can also help you to connect more deeply with your family’s story. For instance, you might visit the site of an old family business or family home that has been passed down through generations. This can offer a sense of continuity and a deeper appreciation for the struggles and achievements of your ancestors.

Step 3: Connect Your Ancestry to the Event

After gathering information about your ancestors and the historical event, it’s time to connect the dots. By understanding how your family’s personal history intersects with broader historical events, you can begin to gain a deeper appreciation for their lived experience.

trace ancestry

Here are a few ways to connect your ancestry to the historical event:

3.1 Use Genealogical Records to Reconstruct Their Life

Start by accessing genealogical records, such as census data, family trees, and property records. These can provide crucial details about your ancestors’ lives, such as their occupation, education, and social position. By reconstructing their lives, you can understand their perspective on the historical event.

3.2 Analyze the Event’s Impact on Your Ancestors

Once you have an understanding of your ancestors’ lives, it’s time to analyze the event’s impact on them. Did the event force them to migrate to a different location or change their occupation? Did it affect their social or political views? Did it shape the family dynamic or relationships?

By analyzing the event’s impact on your ancestors, you can gain a deeper appreciation for their experiences and gain insight into how that event shaped their worldview.

3.3 Find Personal Accounts or Artifacts to Add to the Story

To add depth to the story, use personal accounts or artifacts, such as letters, photos, or objects. These can provide a more nuanced understanding of how your ancestors coped with the event and how it might have influenced their lives and those of future generations.

trace ancestry


By exploring your family’s history and its connection to historical events, you can gain a deeper sense of your identity and your place in the world. From wars and pandemics to economic and cultural shifts, these events have shaped the world we live in today, and it’s vital to understand and preserve them for future generations.

At MemoryCherish, we’re dedicated to helping you preserve these memories by bringing old, damaged, or faded photos back to life. Our expert restoration technicians use advanced restoration techniques to turn your cherished memories into vibrant, high-quality prints that you can hang on the wall, display on your website or social media, or print in photo books.

Preserving your family’s history through photos isn’t a chore, but a way to honor your ancestors and their legacy. With our photo restoration services, you can access an essential time capsule of your family’s history and share it with future generations.

So, start exploring your ancestry today, and let MemoryCherish help you preserve your family’s treasured memories. Click here to find out more & send us your photos, or email us at if you have any questions!

Get Your Damaged Photos Restored Today!

Discover the beauty of your old memories and get your damaged photos restored today! Bring those moments back to life with our easy and convenient restoration service.

About The Author
Dr. Laura Whitman | MemoryCherish
Dr. Laura Whitman | MemoryCherish

Dr. Laura Whitman is the Head of Education at MemoryCherish, the #1 photo restoration company in the world.

With a PhD in Art History and a specialization in photographic preservation, she brings an unrivaled breadth of knowledge to her role.
Over her 19-year tenure in the field, Dr. Whitman has become a respected authority on topics ranging from photo restoration techniques to historical context and genealogy.

Her work has been recognized by major media outlets such as ABC, NBC, and FOX News, and she has been trusted with collaborations by Adobe. As an educator, she has developed numerous 'how-to' guides and tutorials, making photo restoration accessible to millions.

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