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Just a leaf on a tree

For the last few weeks, I've been working on genealogy quite a bit. It's something I've poked at for quite a few years now, on and off. Recently I've gotten a bit more, um, obsessed might be the word. I've ponied up for a subscription to Ancestry.com (just a month, so far, trying to be sane here) and I'm filling some slots in the family tree that have long eluded me. I need more source documentation, to be sure, but I at least have names for clues now. After a few late nights searching Ancestry's huge database, I've forced myself to take a couple days' break from it, just for a better perspective (as well as to get some other things done).

My family presents a few genealogical challenges, at least so I think. Maybe a professional genealogist (yes, there are such people) wouldn't think so, but there are some detours along the way into the past. I am fortunate in having an aunt who, years ago, in pursuit of membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution, did gather enough family data to stretch one branch back to emigration from England in the early 18th century. That balances with two grandparents who I had only a name for, not even their parents' names. The fourth grandparent was Native American, and Native American genealogy has its own peculiar issues; in any event I can probably only get as far back as a mid–19th century treaty before any written trail disappears completely.

I will admit, further, that there are more personal challenges. The tree includes individuals with multiple marriages, sometimes serial and sometimes, perhaps, simultaneous — I should say I mean "marriage" in the very broadest sense, not necessarily coinciding with any certificates or formalities. (No actual bigamy, but definitely children.) I know some of the stories of the people, and alcohol played a prominent role in how they lived and died. That makes me sad. It's also apparent that there are branches where people just did not seem to communicate much, which leaves me wondering whether I can or even should try to reach out to huge parts of the family. My social anxiety rears its not-so-pretty head.

Between NBC's Who Do You Think You Are? and CBC's version, I've seen a couple of episodes where famous people get their histories traced. It turned out their ancestors were truly notable people. I'm not sure I'll find anything quite like that, though we do have one captain from the U.S. Civil War, who I've known about for years. It's fun when you can find stories like that. I guess I just have to not think so much when I get back to my own research.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 2nd, 2011 02:43 am (UTC)
My sister-in-law did a fairly in-depth family tree for us. Found out that her husband's family is just 6 generations up from illiterate reindeer herders. Oh well.

Shawn and I watched an episode of "Who do you think you are." Shawn's eleven-word review: "Famous people find out that they are descended from famous people." Pretty much nailed it for me.

I am glad my sister-in-law did all that geneology. The way I look at it -- it's a job that only has to be done once every 100 years.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 3rd, 2011 05:23 am (UTC)
I just learned that caribou are the same as reindeer. I guess I always thought they were separate species. Species name Rangifer tarandus. Not only Wikipedia says this, but Animal Diversity Web too. Learn something every day.
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Jun. 3rd, 2011 01:39 pm (UTC)
Re: Tangentially...
The extra syllable doesn't scan well?

This comes from trying to sing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Caribou" in my head. Actually it's not so bad; could be worse.
Jun. 3rd, 2011 05:02 am (UTC)
I know what you mean... I keep wondering if the best approach is to find someone who's done a whole ton of research, and then tack my little bit onto it. Why re-do the work? Then print it out and make my great-niece do more later.

Of course, that means actually getting in touch with people who may wonder "Who ARE you?" with raised eyebrows....

I like your review of "Who do you think you are." True. Interesting stories, yes, but certainly not everyone's experience, I'm sure.
Jun. 2nd, 2011 05:02 pm (UTC)
Genealogy is something I find pretty interesting. I've got an uncle on my mom's side that has traced things pretty far back. Back the Scottish Bruce clan. But I don't know many of the details....my uncle's kind of a jerk.

The other side of my family is, and will probably remain a complete mystery to me. My father was adopted...at least I'm pretty sure he was. And now that entire side of the family is gone.

I remember hearing once that my father may have been one of the infamous "Butter box babies" that were popular with Italian immigrant families around the right time period. But that's going to be a tricky one to prove.

Still, going through the old documents when you can find them can be pretty interesting.
Jun. 3rd, 2011 04:51 am (UTC)
"Butter box babies" sounds like it's kinda cute, until I found out what it actually means. *shudder* Tracing the line back from there would be pretty hard.

I almost can't wait to get more old documents. I have copies of a few, and once I work through census forms, which are interesting in themselves, I'll have clues to some other documentary sources, I hope.

Back to the Scottish Bruce clan... that's awesome.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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