Monday, May 31, 2010


Genealogy has fascinated me for years. However, when younger I was well indoctrinated to wait on my elders to speak before I asked questions. They never talked about these things enough and there was a lot I didn't know when they left this world.

One thing I learned is that in every family there seems to be one person in each generation who becomes the guardian of the genealogy. In my generation it seems to be me and in my father's generation it was his sister Virginia. On Mom's side of the family it was Mom, her mother and her father's mother for their respective generations. That light has now been passed to Laura H____ who is well into it.

Recently, we've seen some rather well done television shows created by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Lisa Kudrow (of all people). Aside from their (sometimes radical) political bent, these folks produced similar shows for PBS and ABC (respectively) that seem to have inspired some people to pursue their family roots.

There are assets/sources now available thanks to the digital age that weren't available as well as many professional genealogists such as One of the big dogs in the genealogy game is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS for short). The LDS have pursued this in the belief that they can bring even deceased relatives into the church and thus to salvation. Additionally, DNA can provide a lot of data as shown in Dr. Gates' show, "Faces of America". In that show Dr. Gates was able to show the genetic connection between several of his eleven guests as well as some surprising results as to their genetic makeup. This is a tool I'd like to use in my research.

Every researcher has their own goals and those goals change over time. For me, I simply wanted to know "where I came from" and now I want to know about the families. It is a daunting task, if one looks at it that way, because for each generation we go back, the number of direct ancestors doubles. E.g. 1 - 2 - 4 - 8 and so forth. At the 10th generation one has 512 grandparents PLUS all their siblings and other relations.

Those siblings and other relations can be critical in our research. This is because we can use their presence as documented in a census or other document to confirm that we are looking at the correct family. It is because there are inevitably some family members who are better documented than their brothers or sisters (brothers are particularly better documented than sisters the further back we go). Those neighbors, in the agricultural areas particularly, are often the source of marriage partners and so it helps to pay attention to those people as well.

In doing this it is impossible not to learn something of the history of the place in which your ancestors lived. For some of us this becomes just as interesting as the genealogy.

In my family's history, I've been able to take many lines of my grand-children's ancestors back to the time they came to North America. Most of them arrived during the colonial period, but not all. We've seen some fascinating patterns in the naming of children as well as differences between families. We've found proof of name pronunciation and for the traditional diminutive (nick-name) for my own given name. We've been able to document as well as debunk some treasured family stories. In our knowledge of our own ancestry we've been able to find connections to those we befriend today.

We've also found that every generation who has lived when this country was threatened had those who stepped up and offered their service. As I write this it is Memorial Day, 2010. We thank them all for their service that has made this country our safe refuge.

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