Life

How AncestryDNA Helped 4 Real Families Connect With Their Living History

When building your family tree turns into the journey of a lifetime.

By BDG Studios

A new year brings new memories, but there’s something special about celebrating the past, by enjoying long-held family traditions and flipping through old family photos. Thanks to services like AncestryDNA®, you can now dig even deeper into your family’s shared stories — and maybe even connect with long-lost family members along the way.

Ancestry® offers a range of membership options to fit your budget. For someone who loves to dive deep into family lore, an Ancestry® All-Access Membership provides unlimited, comprehensive access to more than 30 billion records on Ancestry, plus subscriptions for Newspapers.com™ Basic and Fold3® military records. Search census, immigration, birth, marriage and military records, and much more. You can even find your great-grandfather’s WWII draft card or discover your grandmother’s high school yearbook photo and learn she was valedictorian of her class.

For those curious about their family story but don’t want to fully commit to an All Access membership, there are other easy-to-use family tree building options. If you don’t know where to start, building your family tree on Ancestry is free — simply create a free account and add what you know.

For parents or grandparents who are interested in learning more about their heritage, AncestryDNA can provide a missing link to connect them with their family history. The science behind the tests is more precise than ever, with more than 20 million people in the world’s largest consumer DNA database and the ability to trace roots to over 1,500 regions around the world. With the addition of AncestryDNA Traits, you can get insight into how your genes might have influenced your sensitivity to caffeine or why your dad’s side of the family has cleft chins.

Read on for stories from real customers who went on their own family discovery journey of a lifetime.

“A priceless sense of fulfillment and clarity.”

When Brittany G. from Davie, Florida, bought tests for herself and her mom, she was hoping to learn more about their shared ethnic background. She had no idea they would solve a decades-long family mystery.

“We could have never imagined that the suspiciously high DNA match we found could be her birth father after having no leads or insight for the entire 55 years of my mother’s life!” said Brittany. Since finding out about her birth father, Brittany and her mom were connected to aunts, uncles, cousins, and generations of grandparents. “They have taught us about our Afro-Caribbean heritage,” said Brittany, “along with our deep familial and friendly ties to civil rights activists such as Richard B. Moore and W.E.B. DuBois. This has given my mother a priceless sense of fulfillment and clarity.”

DNA insights and historical records research enriches family get-togethers by offering stories to tell younger generations. They can learn about their great-grandfather, a World War I hero, or in the case of Sylvia M.’s family, that they’re descended from royalty. After five or six years spent looking into her family history, Sylvia found that her family’s ancestors were related to Spanish conquistadors and to Aztec King Moctezuma II. “I am amazed at our family history,” said Sylvia. “Our great-grandparents also ruled the Canary Islands, Puerto Rico, and founded Nueva España in many parts of Mexico.”

“So many people would ask my family members and I what we were mixed with. We had no idea.”

Brittney C. of Sacramento, California, decided to take a DNA test after years of being curious about her and her family’s ethnic background. Two years ago, she gave everyone tests for Christmas to finally answer that question. They were able to learn about their great-grandmothers, one of whom came from an enslaved family, the other who had a “free” family, and discovered more about their personalities and stories.

Brittney C.'s grandmothers. Left to right: Lorraine Banks, Dorothy Young. Image courtesy of Brittany C.

“Growing up, each side of the family was very different during the holidays,” said Brittney. “From the activities we did, to the food we ate, to how our mannerisms were expected to be during our time together. Ancestry gave us the opportunity to discover our family’s background and where we came from.” Learning about how each great-grandmother grew up gave Brittney and her family a greater appreciation for their individual traditions during the holidays.

Exploring family history creates opportunities to not just learn about the past, but to make it part of your future. This year, you might find yourself traveling to the Irish coastal village your great-great-grandmother grew up in, or connecting with a long-lost relative. There are many paths to unlocking your family’s own unique story, and it all starts with Ancestry®.