Seniors find fun and fulfillment in tracing ancestry

Tracing your family roots or ancestry – the study of genealogy – ranks in the top 30 of the world’s most popular hobbies.* Many seniors enjoy jumping on popular ancestry websites to create their family trees, track down distant relatives, and discover fascinating lore about where they came from.

One of the most satisfying and pleasurable benefits of diving into the genealogy pool is the opportunity to connect with other family members – especially grandchildren – over what you’ve discovered in your research.

Katie, 33, has a French-Canadian father and Scottish mother. Knowing that her paternal grandmother was born on a First Nations reserve in Northern Ontario has always intrigued Katie, prompting her to want to learn more about her ancestry. She shared her curiosity with her grandmother: “It has been really fun and illuminating,” Katie says. “I have lots of questions, and she has a great memory. I’ve learned so much about the people who came before me, and it’s made our relationship even more special.”

Katie’s experience echoes the advice offered by many genealogy sites on how to begin the process of tracing your roots: talk to relatives first. The Government of Canada Library and Archives website* offers more handy tips for getting started:

  • Start with yourself, and work backwards. This helps to avoid the possibility of including people who are not your ancestors.
  • Think about starting with your paternal family, because surnames do not usually change, and thus are easier to trace.
  • Let all your family members know of your search. Document everything you learn, but do not necessarily accept everything as fact until you can verify it, generally through an archival source.
  • Don’t expect to find everything you’re looking for in one place. The internet is a fountain of knowledge for genealogists, but so are physical libraries, archives, religious records, and genealogical societies. It is unusual to successfully complete an entire family tree through several generations.
  • Be prepared for unexpected discoveries. Every family has “secrets,” and you may uncover some of your own. Think carefully about privacy and confidentiality, using discretion in what information you reveal to other family members or publicly.

There are numerous free internet sites to help you through the process, including some offering resources listed by province.*

Looking to add more meaningful activities to your life—along with friends to share them with? Check out Chartwell’s LiveNow Program for an active and fulfilling retirement lifestyle.