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Chelsea Handler

Sometimes the best sources you can find for your family tree are within arm’s reach. They might be in a shoebox in your attic or in long-neglected files and piles at your mother’s house. For Chelsea Handler, family documents—including a Leistungsbuch that had belonged to her grandfather and a memoir written by his wife—provided the foundation for researching her grandfather Karl Stöcker’s life.

Before you start scouring census records and ordering copies of birth certificates, find out what your family has already accumulated. Look for original documents, photographs, letters, diaries, heirlooms, and the like. Ask aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relatives what items they might have.

Family Bibles might record birth, marriage and death details for generations. Newspaper clippings about marriages and deaths often get saved and can provide names of extended family members. Photographs can be gold, especially if they’re labeled. Studio portraits should include the name of the photographer, which can help pinpoint family residences. Letters and diaries provide a greater understanding of what family members experienced during their lives, as well as events happening around them.

After you’ve gathered your home sources, use a scanner or the free Shoebox app by Ancesty.com to create digital copies.  You can then attach your documents to the individuals in your free online family tree and easily share them with other family members. You can also search for home sources uploaded by other Ancestry.com users. Who knows, your cousin might have posted a photo of your great-grandfather you have never seen.

Learn more about Chelsea’s journey or watch the full episode on TLC.com. Watch more celebrities discover their family history on all new episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? Tuesdays 9|8c on TLC.

Research Manager on Project:

Paul A. Schmidt

Project Hours:

245 Hours

Paul became interested in genealogy when he started asking questions of relatives and made a trip to the New York Public Library to see what he could find. In one afternoon, he discovered Mayflower ancestry, and he has been hooked for the 40 years since.

Paul received a B.A. in history from the University of Bridgeport in 1972 and attended graduate school at the University of Maryland, working towards a double major (history and library science). He worked as an archivist at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., for 11 years, mostly in the Office of Presidential Libraries. He worked with the Nixon Presidential Materials Project and helped process the “secret” White House tapes. His areas of research expertise include Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Denmark, Poland, immigration, and 19th and 20th century cases.


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