Saturday, September 3, 2016

Digging into Genealogy

My mom was a big genealogy buff. Through the years, first living in Europe twice and then after retirement, she faithfully searched our family history back thirteen generations. She did this in another time and place, when it required looking at microfiche, searching real records on occasion and visiting the Salt Lake City library as often as possible.

While she shared all this information with us, and we talked about it a great deal, I'm sorry to say that none of the four children really followed in her footsteps when it came to this particular hobby. Both my parents passed away years ago (when my thirty seven year old was still in middle or high school). After my parents died, my brother here in Denver took home the photo albums (I took the loose photos and memorabilia) as well as the multiple boxes that were my mom's genealogy stuff. Unfortunately,until about a year ago it sat there well forgotten. Partly because no one had a deep abiding interest and partly because my brother (a "keeper" of things) was unsure where he put it.

Lately things have changed up a bit. A few things have happened. My daughter developed an interest in her family history. My father in law had been researching his family history, and I wanted to do the same for the younger generation, so I slowly started doing some digging. And finally, my daughter is also the biological daughter of a person I haven not seen or spoken to since she was about eight months old (that my friends, is a book in itself). Even though she is thirty something, I've decided that anything I can do to help her out in terms of her family health history would be a good thing as well. So I have more than one motivation-normal for me.

My brother is remodeling his home, and a few months ago he brought up five large boxes of genealogy information from my mother, as well as that large family chart known as a pedigree.

With my piqued interest, I have slowly but surely been working on my family history-and believe me it's been more slowly! Granted, the study has changed, but it still takes skill (which I'm learning slowly), time and patience (which I surely have), and money (which I am trying to avoid for the moment). 

Being one who tries to start at the beginning whenever I can, my first step has been to take a course in Genealogy (through the great courses plus, which I plan to review next week). This course is divided into thirty minute increments, and right now it is covering online sources, off line sources and the basics on how to begin the search, which I found fascinating. When you take the great courses they are videos, but they also have printable help, which has allowed me to print out information to have on hand.

To date, I've joined (not cheap and I am not sure it's something I will continue with) where I found a copy of my father in law's father's draft card. I spoke with my father in law during the trip south and got a simple list from him of all the descendants of his great, great, great, great grandfather, with dates of births and deaths when known. We are in the process of making copies for each sibling of the large chart. I have said that for my birthday, all I want is pedigree and one box of the genealogy stuff to copy and document.

They say that we all turn into our mothers. I am not sure about that (I have yet to become so involved in English history that I can name all the monarch's in order and many of their offspring), but in this case I am definitely coming late to something that my mother obviously loved.

Not only that, but this fits perfectly into my other goal, which is to scan pictures and then write what I remember about each one, or something similar. My kids lost their grandparents and their father at a young age, and while I talk about them all the time, I want to create a greater memory for them, in some way. 

Tomorrow, the first college football Sunday, I plan to spend with the TV-and my laptop or tablet. Because the truth is, the more I find out, the more I want to know.

And so it goes, this weekend in retirement. 


  1. My mom and I shared a love of genealogy though we went about the research in a bit of haphazard way for various reasons. In the end we have a little book of names, dates etc. that goes back as far as one can go in Canada. Others have done research that takes us back even farther (at least on my mother's side). On my dad's side there is far less available information. My mother had a deep and abiding interest in Canadian history. Me, not so much but I do enjoy it when it intersects with the family history. If you can leave your children with the history and information if available on health matters in the family, that would be a wonderful legacy.

  2. We don't turn into our parents, but there is no doubt a heavy influence. Anyway, it's interesting that your late-in-life hobby turns this way. Good luck in your explorations!

  3. I have been working on family history for 40 years. Starting in libraries and using microfiche and now using the amazing Ancestry resources. I think it is as addicting as jigsaw puzzles. I just need to find that one more link!

  4. Well, Barb, I can tell you that I, too, have been involved in genealogy for 40 years and it is a passion that gets greater and greater. is a great resource and yes it is very pricey but so very worth it. My roots go back to Germany and Poland and I have done remarkably well with the research in those countries. Hopefully your interest will continue to grow and you will make great finds.

  5. I'm the genealogist in my generation and I've found to be a fantastic resource. My cousin in the next younger generation has done a lot working with professional genealogists via long distance phone and letter. Through them he found information about our immigrant ancestor from Blackpool, England, and about our dead end for another immigrant ancestor, this one from Ireland (still a dead end). The professionals have provided us with great information, although they are expensive and we have to save up before we hire them. My daughter has developed an interest in her father's adoptive family and has used Ancestry to find many generations of them. It gives us a sense of our own long history and reminds us that we didn't just suddenly drop in out of nowhere! Enjoyed your description of your family's stops and starts with genealogy.

  6. is worth every penny (although I have not sprung for the international version yet). I took my mother's work and have expanded!
    I have three people at dead ends. Lots of speculation. Could be material grandmother be half African American? Could the paternal grandfather have been someone who overstayed his work permit? Did my paternal great.....grand come from a servant and the master of the house? All could be true. Or not :)
    My husband's side is equally interesting: Ship captains, plural marriages, a woman who had seventeen children (who lived long enough to be named) between the time of being widowed by three different men--and still lived to be 89 in the early 1900's.
    I am back to the 1630-50's on both sides....
    Woo Hoo! I share in your addiction!

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