When I first started doing genealogy, I didn’t even realize “it” had a name, or that I was doing “it.” I am truly the accidental genealogist. I simply wanted to find out something about my father’s family. He died in a car accident when I was in grade school and we didn’t live anyplace close to his family. I think the nesting instinct had set in. I was pregnant for my second child.
I did discover some information, but that ended with the memory of older family members. And then, my genealogy endeavors took a decade long holiday while I finished my master’s degree and other life events happened.
One day, I saw an announcement in the newspaper that the local Mormon Church was having a genealogy workshop. They invited you to bring your sticky problem and come on by. I took that same child with me that evening, somewhat apprehensive about the session being a “trap” to get folks into the church. The Mormon people never use genealogy as a way to entrap non-Mormons – so no worry there.
As genealogists have discovered, one discovery leads to two at least more questions. I was hooked that night at the Mormon church. We found the marriage record of my Lazarus Estes and Elizabeth Vannoy on microfiche. I still remember the awe and thrill of that moment, looking at that scratchy old record. Anyone who asks when you’re going to be finished with your genealogy just doesn’t understand the blank noncomprehending stare they receive in reply.
What I expected to find, after my initial foray to find some living relatives, was history. I didn’t expect to find a lifelong obsession. And I had no idea I’d find other, more distant family, that I would become very close to.
My cousin Daryl comes to mind. We met over the internet researching a common family line a decade ago. She has become my sister-of-heart and my travel companion. In fact, here’s a photo we took, trapped inside a cemetery in Tennessee. Thankfully, it WAS fenced and the fence was between us and the bull, even if we were trapped inside. I’m still not sure if that bull was unhappy with our presence in HIS field or hopeful of adding us to his harem. Yep, these are things you only do with very close friends or family! And what great memories we’ve made.
I was thinking this morning about how genealogy has changed. For years, we wrote letters. Remember watching for the mailman to arrive and running to the mailbox? I surely do, especially when you had written someplace for a record and were expecting its arrival. All genealogists knew exactly what time the mail was supposed to arrive!
As time evolved, the advent of e-mail has been a huge boon to genealogy. Now, we very seldom write letters and we interact in the space of minutes or hours with new and old cousins.
I’ve also stopped trying to quantify “cousin.” If we’re related and not a parent/sibling aunt/uncle niece/nephew, then we’re “cousins,” kin, and that’s all that matters. With the advent of DNA testing, I’ve discovered I’m “cousin” to more people than I’m not! My, how the world has both grown and shrank in one fell swoop. I am so very blessed to have so many genealogically discovered cousins, here, as well as many who live in other countries – Marja in Finland who I met in November, David in Australia, Doug in New Zealand who I met up with in England, John in Japan, Yvette in the Netherlands who I’ll meet this year, and the list goes on.
The next big connector was and is Facebook. Now, the first question you ask a new cousin is “are you on Facebook.” While e-mails are personal, directed to you individually, you can get to know your cousins on Facebook in another way, by watching what they do and say. I have a new cousin Loujean, discovered just before Thanksgiving. We are Facebook friends, and I think I know her better than I know my nieces and nephews who are not on Facebook. And yes, I’m dead serious. I have no idea what those nieces and nephews are doing, but I can tell you all about Loujean:)
So, now I’m curious about your experiences with both genealogy and genetic genealogy. Aside from the answers to historical questions, has genealogy or genetic genealogy enhanced your life by adding people to your list of family that you care about? Has it changed your life? If so, how? You can answer the polls below, or leave comments, or both.