Yes/No Ancestry: Using to build your family tree

*Disclosure: I received an account upgrade on in exchange for this post. The opinions listed here, however, are my own.

I've always been curious about my family tree. During my junior year of high school (2003), we were assigned a family tree presentation, and I dug deeper into my roots and found out even more about my family's background. Recently, however, I used 23andMe to essentially "spit into a cup" and learn more about my DNA results.

What I learned surprised me: I am 47% Ashkenazi (unsurprising, since both my mother and I are Jewish) but also 33% British/Irish. 23andMe partners with to help you build your family tree, and just like that, I became re-obsessed curious to trace my family tree even further. is a free site, but a free membership only gives you 250 spots on your tree to fill; after that, you can upgrade to the premium membership, which is about $70-80 per year. With the free account, you also don't get access to the record + other family tree matches, which have been most helpful to me so far. You can see others' trees on the site and also use their information in your family tree - it turns out I do share a few of my "higher up" on the tree ancestors with others.

I've learned so much about my ancestry in the past few weeks and I'm geeking out about very excited to learn more. My mother's side of our tree is mostly from Russia, and has been hard to track, so I've mostly been focusing on my dad's side. We are originally from the East Coast and parts of the tree were still in the Rhode Island/Massachusetts area even into the 1600s.

One thing that has really surprised me so far is the picture above. The rumor in our family for a while now is that we had some Native American blood, since one of our relatives had the surname Johonnot, starting with my great-great-grandmother, Ida Johonnot Cotton. Little did I know that the Johonnots were actually from France! I was very excited to find this Google Book off of MyHeritage, which detailed one of the other Johonnot's in my tree and why they came to the U.S. from France (the reason? religious persecution). I immediately emailed it to both my dad and aunt (his sister) because I was so excited to find it.

I've been especially curious about the Parker surname, because that's my last name. I was able to trace the name back to Peleg Peck Parker, who was born in New York in 1798, and I traced his wife's line back to the late 1700s, in Rhode Island. It turned out Peleg and Elizabeth Parker (which is my name too - crazy!) had a ton of kids, and I was even able to trace some of their kids to distant cousins of mine who are still living in Rhode Island.

If you notice, Peleg's entry in my tree has both a green button and a brown button next to it. When you click the brown button, which means there are historical records for that person, you get something like the above picture. You can then go through the info and see what (if any) info the record has that you do not, currently, and add that info to your tree.

If you were to click the green button, it would show you other trees on the site that have the same ancestor in common with you. This is how I was able to obtain a good portion of my info on the higher-up branches of the tree, aka my relatives in the 1500s-1700s. Although I had a decent amount of starting info from my 2003 high school project, really let me take my tree to the next level.

I've used other heritage sites before, such as, but I've found very easy to use. I also love how I can add to my tree easily by viewing others' records, and that I can view historical records, which are very detailed - when I clicked on my dad's historical records, it had 3-4 previous addresses for him, including our Massachusetts address back from when I was a baby. has a discount code for my readers as well - if you enter YNFILMS at checkout, you can get 15% off all products/services on their site. Code is valid until May 10, 2015.

If you're interesting in your family tree, I highly encourage you to check out MyHeritage!

Have you ever done any family tree research? If so, has anything you found surprised you?

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