By SUE DIETZEN
Special to the OBSERVER
Do you ever wonder when your grandparents or great grandparents came to America? Or how they got here? Your family's story is important and should be preserved for future generations. You might know the names of your parents and grandparents but there is much more to every family's story. You don't have to be a family historian to learn where your ancestors came from.
The log cabin where Dietzen’s grandmother was born in 1894, located at Michael Road in Orchard Park before it was demolished.
I began researching my family's history after going through old photo albums of my grandparents. I began by asking aunts, uncles and cousins who the people in the photos were, where they lived and what they did. Everyone had a lot of different stories plus other pictures. The more information I received, the more interested I became.
That was about 15 years ago. I now have information and copies of records back to the 1500's in Germany on my father's side of the family including a copy of the ships manifest when they came to America. I am still working on other branches of my family, adding information and documentation all the time. Besides just having the names and where or when they lived, I also like to put together their stories - how they lived, what they did and what it was like living in that time period.
If you are lucky, someone will have written down some of the names and information which will give you a great beginning. Both of my grandparents had written out a list of the names of their parents, grandparents and siblings plus who they married and where they lived. They also included information about their early lives. My grandmother was born in a log cabin in Orchard Park and I was actually able to obtain a photo of the log cabin. With this information, I was able to use some of the many genealogy programs on the computer and find a lot of other records with names of more relatives that expanded my family tree. I also asked my brothers, sister, cousin and aunt to write out their memories as they were growing up. These letters have been a wonderful way to see what they remember about our family from a different point of view.
I mostly use Ancestry.com which is a subscription program that has the most records available. There are also many programs that are free and even include charts and reports to compile all your information. They are continually adding more information and records. After many years of researching, I finally put my family tree information on Ancestry and it has been amazing how many people have contacted me with other names of people that I am related to. They have been from all over the United States and even a couple of people from Germany. There are so many people researching their families that sometimes you are able to connect with someone who has other information that you have not been able to find or someone you did not know about.
I began teaching "Researching Your Family History" at the Silver Creek School evening program a couple of years ago when I decided to help other people find their ancestors. It becomes a very fascinating hobby to put your history together and find out who you are and where your family came from. I have also put together my family's history in a spiral-bound book that not only includes names and dates, but stories and as many pictures as possible which I gave to family members along with a framed family tree. I continue to search for more data and each time I find someone new, it is thrilling to connect to the past.
The next class begins on Tuesday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Silver Creek Central School. For more information, call 951-8111.
Send comments on this story to firstname.lastname@example.org