Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Who Do You Think You Are?

I am a passionate genealogy researcher. Well, I'm passionate in my heart even if I haven't stepped into a genealogy library in...how old is Nicholas?..oh yeah, almost 6 years. My heart aches to find time to get active in my research again but for now it will have to sit on a back burner.

My dad started researching his and my mom's ancestry 20+ years ago. When I got married in 1996 and moved away, something clicked and I could see my family as more than just my parents. Suddenly I wanted to know where I came from. I wanted to know who my ancestors were and how did the puzzle all fit together that ultimately resulted in my parents finding each other and making me. I got caught up on all of the research my Dad had done and together we bust through several brick walls and opened the doors to finding so much more about our ancestors.

I am a little compulsive about organizing things, although you wouldn't know it if you saw the desk I'm sitting at right now. But my genealogy research is different. I have about 30 3-ring binders full of research on various family lines. I have entered all of my ancestry, including connecting lines of cousins and marriages, into a software program called Family Tree Maker. Having all of this data in one program has been amazing to help me see my extended family. Ok, it's an extended family on steroids. I can show my lineage back 19 generations. I'm related to 27,312 people that I know of (keep in mind this includes cousins and their marriages, etc). Crazy stuff. I have strong family ties to Kentwood, Louisiana - have you heard of my cousin, Britney Spears? No, she has no idea who I am but I can show you how I'm related to her. I have information on ancestors that crossed the great ocean in search of America. Several ancestors fought in the American Revolution as well as other wars and battles. Some of my ancestors were incredibly poor and couldn't read or write. Some of my ancestors were quite wealthy and owned plantations and slaves. It's rumored from another researcher in my family tree that I may be descended from an owner-slave relationship way back in time. I know the father in that relationship but haven't been able to prove who the mother was yet. Some might think I would be ashamed of such a history. I most certainly am not! I personally think it would be really interesting to be able to confirm that. Would it change anything about who I am? Would I be a different person to know such a thing? Would you like me any less? Of course not. We all have interesting histories like this. Most of us just don't know the details yet. I think it just adds a beautiful texture and interesting tones to the already dynamic fabric of our lives.

Some other interesting finds in our research...On my Dad's side of the family, I am descended from Joseph Benjamin Lewis, Sr. and Elizabeth Sarah Magee. When Elizabeth died in 1828, Joseph remarried Tabitha Morris. Tabitha Morris was the sister of Benjamin Morris, Jr. who was my mom's great-great-great grandfather. It's a little confusing but although my parents are not blood relatives, their families did marry into each other back in the early 1800's.

I sometimes talk to others about my passion for genealogy. Usually I just get the "oh, that's interesting" response or "I wish I knew more about my ancestry". But that's it. Rarely have I found others that get all excited and start talking to me about doing endless hours of research in court houses and libraries or traipsing through a cemetery in another state just to find out the birth date of an ancestor by reading his tombstone. Yes, dear friends, that excites me. I wish others got as excited as I do to find out details about their ancestors. Not just so I can have others around me who understand this crazy obsession. But because I hate to see history die. No matter how irrelevant any of our ancestors lives may seem to have been, they each played some role in history. Maybe not as a Revolutionary War hero or a President of the United States. But in their own way, they were a part of history. All of those history textbooks that we studied years ago in school...our ancestors were living that history. They were the ones losing loved ones in WWI. They were the ones dying of the plague. They were the ones working in the early coal mines. They were the inventors of the Industrial Revolution. They were the travellers in the California Gold Rush. Your ancestors were most likely a part of some of these events. Doesn't that just bring history to life for you when you think of it that way? Sadly, if our generation doesn't do the research and write the names and dates down of the people who went before us then those precious details could be lost forever.

I can tell that I am getting a bit zealous because I'm typing fast without even thinking about what I'm writing so perhaps I should just get to my point. I just watched a trailer for a new show airing on March 5th on NBC called "Who Do You Think You Are?". Each show will help someone learn about their ancestry. The people in the show happen to be celebrities and it's neat to see them get excited by learning about their past. I hope that the show gets lots of viewers and that others may find a spark of excitement to find out more about their family history. Just start by asking your parents or grandparents to tell you what they know about your ancestors. You'll be amazed at how exciting that can be if you really listen and try to learn from them.

1 comment:

  1. When my Mom & Grandma were here back in April last year, my Grandma brought all the geaneology stuff she had. I was AMAZED to see the actual ledger sheets my ancestors signed at Ellis Island when they came over from Czhechoslovakia! And...my GreatUncle so-many-times-removed actually brought over his SISTER as his wife the first time, then went back to Czech and brought over his real wife! Amazing!

    Then I Googled the name of the ships they came over on, so my Grandma could see them & get an idea of what it was like.


    I agree with you...it is fascinating to find out where you came from :)

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