Why Genealogy?


After joining http://www.wikitree.com/ a week or so ago, I had to post a comment to another member’s profile as part of the joining process. I thought this was a weird setup, but I am so glad that I had to because it has led to a great email conversation with another genealogist. His email was very inspiring to me, as it really delved into why he researches genealogy and what he gets out of it. I’d like to share his email today, and in my next post I will respond with why I do genealogy myself.

Below is his email, slightly edited to remove the conversation back and forth. I think it can inspire current genealogist and create new ones. Thanks again Brian!

I consider myself very fortunate to have found everything that I have found so far – I am actually a relative newbie to genealogy myself. Two years ago, I knew almost nothing of my family history. I knew who my great grandparents were on my mom’s father’s side, and that was it. Then my dad’s parents moved here from Virginia, and for the first time in my life, I got to see them more than once every year or two. One afternoon, Grandma pulled out a huge box of old pictures and documents. The documents traced our lineage all the way back to a Revolutionary war soldier who came over from France in 1768. Her pictures told stories of great-great-great grandparents, some of them immigrants from Germany. Some pictures were of my great-great grandfather who was an aviation pioneer who knew the Wright Bros and flew in county and state fairs in 1912-1914 until he died in a crash in Nov. 1914. Then Grandma started telling me about things that she WISHED she knew.

I was a history major as an undergrad, and I am a librarian (Master’s Degree in Library Science) so if there was one thing I could do, it was find stuff! And I was hooked. I wanted to know more stories! And my grandfather? His memory was starting to slip at that time, but he knew his parents’ names and one side of his grandparents’ names, and a place they lived, and that was all I needed. These past 2 years have been a spectacular journey for me. I’ve met distant cousins I never knew I had, some who practically live right in my back yard (and I moved 50 miles from where I was born 10 years ago.) I work some Sundays in our genealogy/special collections department at the Main Library downtown a couple times a month (I work in a branch the rest of the month.) I edit the newsletter for the Summit County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society and I am a board member of the group. And I have gone so far back, and know so much more than I’ve already dreamed I would know, it’s unbelievable. But what really drives me, is finding out as much as I can for my Grandma. Right now, her main interest lies in the Perrys’ and the Saunders’, which is why I am trying so hard to find information for her…

I was pushing very hard for a while to find information on my Grandpa’s side up until October. In early October, I found his senior year high school yearbook on Ancestry and printed that out to take to him. Turns out he couldn’t afford his yearbook when he was in school, so he never received a copy. You should have seen the smile on his face – my parents said it had been WEEKS since he had smiled like that. (He had been getting progressively sicker for a while.) Hours after I visited him, he had a mild heart attack and spent a couple of weeks in the hospital, where he began to lose his fight with kidney disease, and ultimately passed on.

To me, genealogy is more than just a hobby, although I am having so much fun learning about the stories behind the lives of the people that are directly related to me. What means even more to me, is having that connection now with my two living grandparents, and being able to take them information when I can find it (this grandmother is so much easier than my other one whose parents came from Kosjov, Czechoslovakia, in 1929. THAT is much more challenging, though not impossible ;).

So often when our loved ones pass on, we’re filled with regrets of things not said, times not shared, and so on. In October when Grandpa passed on, I was (for once) ok. I miss him terribly still, but I have no regrets, and I can smile when I think about him because I know how much it meant these past two years when I would bring him information. His father abandoned him and his two sisters when he was very young – however, on his mother’s side, he had several Civil War soldiers, Revolutionary War soldiers, and even King Phillips’ War soldiers and about 110 pilgrims that came during the Great Migration. I think knowing this made him finally have some peace with his heritage a little bit, and not feel quite so bad about his father being who he was, as he was more an aberration than the norm, and Grandpa didn’t have to live in that shadow anymore.

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