According to the 2010 census, only 1.7% of the total population of America are actually native to the country. That means when it comes to the rest of us, our ancestors originally came from other parts of the world, which can make things really interesting when it comes to finding out about our past. In the 2014 American Community Survey, the four largest self-reported European ancestry groups in the US were German Americans, Irish Americans, English Americans and Italian Americans which made up 37.8% of the total population. However, there are groups which often go under counted, and without proper research into individual families and bloodlines it’s often difficult to really know who we are, and where we came from. If you have an interest in ancestry or just want to discover more about your past, here are some fun ways to find out about your heritage!
Find out about where in the world your ancestors were from
While many of us have some idea of our ethnicity and our background, it’s common for people to delve deeper and end up being really surprised by what they have found. Different ethnicities tend to have different traits when it comes to skin tone, hair color and texture, eye color, height and facial features so in some cases it can be fairly obvious just by looking. However, many of us can be hiding an interesting past, where we display few or no features from our ethnic ancestors, perhaps where they were too far back in our history, or because they have been watered down by the genes of our other ethnicities. Others might look ‘ethnically ambiguous’ or be made up of lots of different ethnicities making it harder to pinpoint. It can be so interesting to find out where in the world your ancestors were from, and how different people across the globe and throughout history have lead up to you eventually being born. An accurate way to do this is to take an ancestry test; these are really cool as they can tell you where abouts in the world your ancestors would have lived and roughly which kind of time period too- check it out! Once you have all of this information, you can go about learning more and discovering the cultures and the heritage which lead to you being you. This information can even be used in a practical way, knowing about your family background and ancestry can let you know if you’re more prone to certain illnesses and other risks. Once you know what these are, you can take steps to avoid them.
Discover your family tree
If you’re lucky enough to have famous ancestors then chances are there will be information in history books, as well as being available through other sources which will allow to you find out more. But even if they weren’t, things like birth, marriage and death certificates can all help you to piece things together and can be found on online databases and in libraries. If you’re really keen to do this, you can hire a family tree expert to research for you. At the very least, speak to your older relatives and see if they have things like old boxes of photos and other documents stored away that you could look at.
Research your surname
Last names as we know them today have been around since the Middle Ages. With a growing population, it became necessary to distinguish from one person to the next, especially since forenames were often taken from a limited pool. Surnames were created from places, land, occupations and even appearances (Little, Long, etc). Researching your surname can allow you to trace back to some of your earlier ancestors and give you an idea of where they lived and what they did. It can show you trends of how different branches of your family split and moved to different places in the world. Most of the information is available online, although you might have to pay a small fee to access some databases. There are often forums and other groups for surnames so you can speak to those across the world who are linked to you in some way, which can be really interesting! It can even help you to find long lost relatives.
Discover ingredients, recipes and cooking techniques
If you’re lucky enough to have some exotic countries in your ancestry, one way you can have fun and celebrate these is by learning about the different foods from the place. Food, history and culture are always strongly linked, where local ingredients combined with cooking techniques and availability of different methods will all contribute to the cuisine. Whether it’s Africa, India, Germany, Ireland or Japan, you can have fun discovering different foods and cooking techniques, and enjoy them even more knowing that it’s from a country that makes up part of you.
Visit the countries your ancestors were from
Another way to celebrate your heritage is to visit the country or countries that you descended from. Any kind of travel is never a bad thing, but it could be fascinating to visit a place in the world you’ve never been to but was a firm part of your history. Enjoy it as a family vacation, or use it as a way to discover and find out as much as you can. Of course, places in the world will look much different to what they did hundreds of years ago, but it can be a good feeling knowing that you’re in a place that your ancestors once resided. If you have lots of different countries and areas that show up on your ancestry map then it can be a great excuse to take trips to different places in the world! You can discover things like religion, music, dress and other customs which have been passed through the generations. It can be fascinating to compare what your life is like, and how theirs would have been. Not to mention how different things could have been without emigration.
When you think about all of the different ancestors that needed to come together, move to different places in the world and so much more just for you to end up where you are now- it truly is fascinating. Looking into your ancestry can reveal so much interesting information and best of all, it can be fairly easy to do thanks to modern tools.