When I was a child, my family visited two places every summer, without fail – my mother’s parents’ house in Alabama, and my father’s parents’ house in Florida. Life is always good at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, and I enjoyed seeing both sets of grandparents. Visiting my paternal grandparents was especially fun because I had a lot of cousins my own age living in the same small town. There was always someone to go exploring with on my grandparents’ spacious property.
On my mother’s side of the family, there was only one cousin that was my age, and she lived a couple of hours away from my Grandparents. I very rarely saw her, so I had to entertain myself. I did get to spend a lot of time with my aunts and uncles, and I had the opportunity to listen to them, and Grandma and Grandpa, talk about the adventures they had together growing up. One day, in the early 1970s, I heard Grandma say something that got my attention. She was talking about the fact that her sister had married Grandpa’s brother. Now, I had never met any of my grandparent’s siblings, or ever seen any photographs. I knew absolutely nothing about them. But this little tidbit of information really interested me, and I began to wonder what else I didn’t know about my ancestors. That was the moment that I got the Genealogy Bug.
The next afternoon, I asked my grandparents if I could ask them some questions about their brothers and sisters. (My first interview!) They were thrilled that I asked, and were very eager to answer my questions. They gave me the names of all of their siblings which, as it turned out, were mostly nicknames. I got the names of the siblings’ spouses and children, and for the first time ever, I heard the names of my great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents. I was amazed! Grandma and Grandpa told me everything that they could remember, and I wrote down all that they said. I even sketched out a little family tree.
When I interviewed my grandparents that afternoon, I did not realize that finding out about my ancestors was going to make me want to know even more about them. I thought that once my specific questions were answered, I would have all the information that I wanted. I was wrong! The passion to know more followed me home. But then I was stumped as to what I could do to find out more. I read books on genealogy, and realized that at 13 years old, pretty much all I could do was write letters to get more information. And that didn’t appeal to me very much. So I put all my interview papers and my family tree sketch into a folder, and told myself that one day, I would pursue this.
After having children of my own, that day did come. By this time, I had a computer and the means to find answers online. I also have a husband who is always up for a road trip and adventures in finding and indexing cemeteries. And any other crazy research quest I suggest. I have now researched both my maternal line and my paternal line. And my husband’s maternal and paternal line. And anyone else’s who asks me to. But my favorite line to work on is the one that started me on this adventure – my Grandma and Grandpa. And what I love the most about that is, I still have my notes from my interview that summer afternoon, and the family tree sketch. And anytime that I find a new piece of information on that line, I pull out my papers to see if it fits with what my grandparents told me. That’s my final test for accuracy in my research.
I’ve been doing serious genealogy research for over 20 years now. Every family tree that I work on, whether I’m related or not, intrigues me. Everyone’s story is interesting, and I love to dig in and find out more, not just the facts, but the story behind the facts. Do you have a genealogy mystery that you would like help with? Contact me, and I’ll do a little digging for you!