Watching Who Do You Think You Are tonight reminded me of something I have not talked about yet, your family and history. In order to understand your personal history, you need to understand what was going on in the world around your ancestor.
Many people emigrated to America, South America and Australia for very good reasons that you may not fully understand. Most people of Irish ancestry whose ancestors came to the U.S. and Canada in the years 1845-1848 understand that there was a famine in Ireland that resulted in approx. a million deaths and another million people emigrated. But Ireland is not the only country that had events happening that made people leave the homeland.
What made so many Germans leave in the 1840s and 1850s, why were Poles leaving Poland in the 1880s and 1890s? Why did so many Italians leave Italy in the first decade of the 20th century? It is important to try to figure out when your immigrant ancestors left the homeland and then search exactly what was going on at the time.
This is true for all your ancestors, not just those who may or may not have emigrated. It is helpful to know how the events and politics of the area they were living in would have affected them.
Try creating a timeline of your personal history and then add the events that were happening around them. By doing this you may get a better idea of the who, what and why of your family.