I first heard about Worldwide Genealogy -- A Genealogical Collaboration from Fran Ellsworth, author of the Branching Out Through the Years blog. She sent me to Julie Goucher, of Anglers Rest, who told me there was one spot still available -- the 25th. Today is my day; but, after reading all of the previous posts, I feel seriously outclassed as a genealogist. I am a rank amateur. I am obsessed, though.
I hang out at my blog, Tangled Roots and Trees, Facebook, Twitter and now here. My social media goal for 2014 is to become active on Google+. I got my love of family history and genealogy from my father. He was the genealogist in our family for years, starting before the Internet made it so much easier than it was then. He wasn’t the best typist in the world so he would save up all his data entry tasks for my next visit. We spent hours together in his home office as I entered his latest research into the computer – all the while Dad would tell stories about our ancestors. He was a natural born teacher and storyteller.
My octogenarian parents
When I got a personal computer in 1994, the first software application I bought was for family trees. Since Dad was working on our family, I started on my husband’s. I didn’t get very far. His parents were first-generation Americans whose parents came from Lithuania (Russia at the time), Austria, and Serbia (though they considered themselves German). My first big discovery was on the Ellis Island website when I found my husband’s paternal grandfather on a passenger list.
I would put down my research for months and years at a time and then pick it back up again. I’d find some new bits and pieces of information before hitting another brick wall. And so it continued until last year.
Dad suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage and could no longer research our family. After seven months of brutal physical, occupational and speech therapy, he is again able to walk and understand what we are talking about, but he is not able to speak. I’m a Daddy’s girl so I was suffering. When Mom decided it was time to move into an assisted living facility with Dad, I brought all Dad’s genealogy files home when we emptied out their house.
Dad's genealogy files and old photo albums
And so began my obsession. I’ve connected with several genea-cousins online, and a couple of them have become friends and research collaborators. I purchased more old, musty books than is reasonable and haven taken a few genealogy vacations (thankfully I have a very understanding husband who goes with me). My biggest find that caused a happy dance, lasting for days, was connecting with a woman who owned two unpublished manuscripts written by my aunt’s brothers. Their father was a Church of God missionary, who took the family to British East Africa (now Kenya) in 1920. The family lived there for nine years. The stories of that time from the memoirs are wonderful and I’ve written about them on my blog in an ongoing “Out of Africa series.” Dad and I now have plenty to talk about, and we’ve discovered that while he can no longer speak, he can read. (The brain is a mysterious thing!) So I print out my posts and take them me when we go to visit. I also tell him about new genea-cousin connections I’ve made and how we are related.
Showing Dad how I was related to a recently discovered 4th cousin from New Zealand
Google Play has become a favorite app for my research. So many old county histories, written for the country's centennial anniversary, which contain biographical sketches, and old genealogy books are available. I also spend a lot of my research time on newspaper archive sites. Many require a subscription but others located at county historical societies or on Google are free. I do this because I enjoy learning more about an ancestor than just dates and places. I have discovered my ancestors did two things well: marry into interesting families and die in very creative ways!
Union soldiers at the Fairfax County Courthouse in 1863 during the Civil War.
Photograph by Timothy H. O'Sullivan and courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
I work full-time and that seriously cuts into my research obsession, but it won’t last forever. When I retire I would like to start writing books. I consider my blog and this collaboration project good practice! Tangled Roots and Trees is not a typical genealogy blog; I leave the documents and the source citations on my tree. I tell stories instead about incidents in the lives of my ancestors and places in which they lived. I enjoy being able to marry my life-long love of history with my genealogy obsession.