Monday, March 23, 2009

For Genealogists Only

Those of you who know me know that I am a genealogist. Not just on weekends or vacations, but an every day genealogist - in and out, through and through, forever and always. This didn’t happen overnight. It started innocently with just a question or two and took years of nurturing and seasoning to reach my current condition.

From the very first moment of wondering about my ancestors, I have been consumed with learning what they did, where they did it, and why they did it. “It” could be almost anything; if “it” was about them, I wanted to know. For those of you who don’t understand this malady, you may as well go on and do something else. You will be bored reading my story.

Maybe it is a case of simply being nosy, but I think curious is a better word. So, I am curious - very curious - and the only way to satisfy this curiosity is to find out as many answers as possible. That is what I have been doing for the last 40 years. Yes, 40 years of searching through musty records in courthouse basements and tramping across fields, up and down hills, often through wet and knee-high weeds in search of old family cemeteries. When genealogy gets hold of you, it gathers you up and takes you on the ride of your life. Don’t even try to fight it; it won’t work.

As a beginning genealogist, I schemed to think of ways to slip in a brief stop at a battlefield, family cemetery, or courthouse during a family vacation. After a while, it just seemed normal to include these little side trips on our agenda. In fact, I believe the family began to expect a part of our trip would be to some remote place. They thought it was to satisfy mom, but they were learning too. My children grew up becoming acquainted with our country’s history by visiting the places where our ancestors reared their families, fought their battles and buried their dead. We traveled to far away states searching for information, experiencing history where it happened. I hope it meant more to them than reading about an event in a textbook.

In years past, you could spot a genealogist because we always had a notebook and pen. Today we still carry these items and that’s really the only equipment you need to get started, but a laptop and digital camera are awfully handy too. Times may be different, but the quest is the same - to learn about those who came before us and, in doing so, to learn our place in the world - the place where our roots are located and the place we can call home, whether we have ever resided there or not. We even have our own special language - containing words such as testate and intestate, sources and citations, DNA and dower rights. If genealogy sounds like something you would like to do, come on along. Grab your notebook and pen and let’s go!

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