Why I got into Genealogy

I am my family’s genealogist. And I love doing it.

Over the years, it’s sort of been my replacement for having a kid; my way of contributing to the family line, as it were. I never wanted kids, and sometimes, the pressure from my family can be hard to take, though it was far worse when I was younger. But when I focused on getting information for my family tree, suddenly, I had something else to talk about with them. It was easier to talk to my grandmother about the people in the photos than deal with her questions about when I would have a child.

But I had more specific reasons for getting interested in genealogy. In 1991, my grandfather died. An event that happens to everyone, but I had grown up as the first grandchild on either side of the family, lucky enough to not only have all four grandparents alive and well through all my life to that point, but even had two great-grandmothers who I got to know fairly well, and a great-grandfather whom I met on at least one occasion. For me, it was hard to imagine a time when I wouldn’t have four grandparents.

So when my grandfather died, I felt the loss strongly. Even more when I realized that I knew almost nothing about his family. He was the eldest of his parents’ two children, and his younger brother had died in the war when his plane had crashed on the way to Europe. When my grandfather died, all that was left was a great-great aunt and a great-great uncle, and another great-great aunt and her children, though they were far across the country from me.

I knew that there had been a space in time when my father had taken it upon himself to work on both sides of my family tree, even doing his best to help track down his own grandmother’s family, who had been lost to us since she had died when my grandmother was nine. He was the first that I went to, but he wasn’t the last.

I invested in a shareware program for collating all the information, and my family tree has been on my computer in one form or another ever since. First Brother’s Keeper, which was the shareware program, and then, a few years after, Family Tree Maker, which is what I currently use, though I’ve noticed my version is now four years out of date…might be time to get another. But my latest foray into genealogy “software” is actually online: Geni, which allows people to collaborate on their trees, both their own family, and when they find connections further on up their family tree, with others. There is one caveat to Geni—they’re trying to milk it for everything it’s worth, and making it hard to get past the “Pay to get Pro” ads everywhere on the site. I’m inclined to think they would make more if they kept it low-key and found other ways to encourage paid accounts—like picture posting, and higher level of detail in your tree, or something.

Over my years of working on my family tree, I’ve learned the hard way that it can feel like you’ll never find anything. Or worse, that the ones you want to find most are the hardest to find. I was lucky enough in the past year to find connections for my grandfather’s father’s line, but his mother’s family, whom I know so little about, I still have found absolutely nothing new on.

I’ve also learned that my focus has changed based on what I’ve learned. Before, I was very curious about my grandfather’s Irish roots…and learned that Curren is a horrifyingly common name. But then my focus shifted to my grandmother’s side of the family—entirely Welsh, which was not something I’d even fully understood before that. Unfortunately, that line is as difficult to find new info on—Jones, Howell, and Roberts, among other very common names. My most recent obsession is my other grandmother’s family in Denmark. As I mentioned above, her mother died when she was very young, so we didn’t learn much of anything about her family until I was around, in the early 80s. We still don’t know a whole lot, but it’s more than we had before. And I have strong hopes that I will manage to find one or both of my grandmother’s grandparents. I have one possibility for her grandfather, but I need to find more information to be sure. If you’re interested, a more detailed version of my grandmother’s story is here.

I do wish this would be something I could make money at, but I know I’m not the only one, and most are far better at this than I am. I’m a weekend genealogist, and I’ve only managed to expand my tree in a few places, and at a few times. Still, every time I find a new link, it’s such a thrill. I doubt the feeling will ever get old.


Post a Comment

About this blog

This blog is maintained by two sisters who have had a life long interest in geneology.
Mika writes here mostly about our family (Hansen, Hillinger, Bordewick, Park, etc), and her search for more information.
Shannon mostly uses this space as a place to make the many stories written about and by her husband's family (Holly, Walker, Walpole, etc) available to the rest of the family, present and future.

Our blog is named Oh Spusch! mostly because Shannon is bad at naming things. The first post I put up includes a story about the time Walker's great grandfather took his whole family out to see a play and the littlest kept saying "Oh! Spusch!" No one ever figured out what she meant by that.