By Greg Argos


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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Do you know your family history? And the people that preceded you in name?

“It is important to know your history,” one man said. “From whence you’re from.”

“It’s helpful to be grounded and to know your roots,” said one woman.

But not everyone does.

A survey commissioned by Ancestry.com shows many Americans struggle to climb the branches of their own family tree.

One third could not name all four of their own grandparents.

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“It’s rather sad and also not that surprising,” Dr. Lee Arnold said.

Dr. Arnold is the chief operating officer of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

“We’re a comprehensive genealogical research center so we collect for every state east of the Mississippi so we have everything under one roof,” Dr. Arnold said.

That includes birth records, death records, even completed family trees.

The archives are free to access if you’re a student. There is a small daily fee if not.

The survey says most Americans — 80 percent — want to learn more about their family history.

So Dr. Arnold has this advice:

“The main think you want to do is start with yourself and work backwards,” he said.

And if you don’t have a grandparent who you’re close with, he says simply reach out to another family member.

“An aunt or a cousin, someone who knows these things, because then you can start working on that,” Dr. Arnold said.