Two weeks ago I read a newspaper article about people using the Internet to search for their family tree. In the article they gave much praise to Ancestry.com. I hadn't spent much time looking at my family tree in the past as there were a number of gaps that I hadn't desired or been able to walk through.
My father and my mother divorced when I was two years old. Although they were divorced he was stationed almost always on the west coast which meant he was around a lot. My father's sister had tracked back the Oien family to Norway back to the early 1700s which I thought was really impressive. As of the last time I checked they hadn't done that on his mother's side. Their family name was Venn. I need to give her a call and get some details.
On my mother's side there were two branches, one of which I knew and one which I didn't. The one I knew went back to Mexico fairly quickly and then presumably went to Spain. My great grandmother, who I spent a large amount of time with growing up had the maiden name of Castillo. Other family names were Figueroa and Valdespino. My mother's father was estranged from our side of the family by my mother's choice if I recall.
So I sat down with a trial account of Ancestry and a couple of family names going back. I won't bore you with any more details about my family but I will say that the tools that are available are amazing. ESPECIALLY the census data. I was checking census records back to the 1860s which blew me away.
When I sat down I thought that my family was all Norwegian on one side, and then a mix of Spanish, German, Irish and English on the others. In reality I ended up realizing that I am 1/2 Norwegian, 1/4 Irish, and 1/8th Spanish and 1/8 Swedish. Not what I expected. I managed to track back every side out of the country, with most branches going in the 1880s and one branch going back to the 1850s (Irish potato famine refugee I assume). I did this in 2 hours. I don't plan on going beyond that our getting all the details together but when I do decide to do that I know that there are some amazing tools online today.