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Before you rush out to take that DNA home test Aunt Sally got you for the holiday, Simone Faure urges you to ask yourself one important question: Why do I want to do this?
A fierce genealogy enthusiast when she’s not making elegant pastries at her bakery, La Patisserie Chouquette, Faure has helped numerous people around town trace their roots since she fell in love with the field several years ago. She’s witnessed family reunions, has seen people uncover exciting details about their histories and has made the voices of enslaved people speak to their descendants — but she advises would-be explorers to do some serious soul searching before they dive into the past.
“There are lots of reasons why people want to look into their family tree,” Faure says. “Some are trying to figure out where their family’s schnitzel recipe came from and why they are always eating these traditional things. Some are trying to find lost loved ones. Some are adopted and want to learn about those circumstances. There are a million reasons, and identifying why you want to do this is important, because it will dictate the route you take. When you are looking up your family history, it’s not just your history. It’s your parents’ and your siblings’, and it’s important to think about who has the right to tell that story and be the keeper of that information.”
For those who have decided to take the plunge, Faure says there are numerous resources, some free, that will give you the tools to trace your roots. Though there is a fee associated with it, she encourages people to start with a DNA test.
“DNA doesn’t lie, but Grandma Eunice definitely does,” Faure says. “Oftentimes, it’s to protect you, they believe; to cover for someone who is dead and gone or because the truth is simply too painful to talk about. That’s where DNA comes in, because it will show you things clearly.”
Faure notes that, although the countries of origin that are revealed through a DNA test should be taken with a grain of salt, they are fun places to start. From there, she encourages those serious about tracing their family tree to buy the basic Ancestry.com subscription that gives you access to every census record published to date and access to other people’s family trees, as well as some newspapers’ military records. If this is cost-prohibitive, she notes that the library has its own subscription that can be used, for free, with a library card. Those institutions also offer free classes in genealogy that can be very helpful.
Death records — free to access in Missouri if they are at least ten years old — are another important resource, as are online resources like familysearch.com. TikTok has been another great source of information, especially when it comes to learning the tools for tracing your tree or even watching others do their own. Even something as simple as walking through the cemetery in your family’s hometown can reveal important information.
“They say dead men tell no tales, but that is a lie, honey,” Faure says. “They are, a lot of times, speaking loud and clear, and because they are dead, there is nobody there to contradict them.”
Whatever path you take, Faure urges patience and respect. Though she understands there will probably be disappointment along the way, Faure believes the important thing to remember is that this is your journey — one filled with curiosity, beauty, ugliness and everything in between, but one that will give you a greater understanding of what makes you uniquely you.
“If you come up against somebody that matches your DNA, and they don’t want to answer you back, that means they had a different reason for getting tested,” Faure says. “Perhaps their family circumstances are none of your business. Just because you are a match doesn’t mean they want anything to do with you. You have to respect people’s wishes, because your story is your own.”
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