Here’s how I got involved. My grandfather, my father’s father, would not talk about his family or his upbringing or where everyone hailed from. His sister, my father’s aunt, was of the same mind. My curiosity, when they were alive, was heightened by their reticence in this area.
One gets busy as a teenager, then as a young adult making one’s way in the world, then as a newlywed and, as the Internet hadn’t yet been invented, my family history moved way to the back of my mind.
Once the Internet, and the then free-to-access (no longer!) fledgling Ancestry.com was available, I began a small work toward figuring out my heritage. Time, and the then lack of data left me with not much more than I had on paper, some 12-to-15 individuals. And there it sat for many years.
Upon retirement, I began work on writing the novel I had pretty much always felt I had inside, but after some months I began dabbling in the family tree using the free My Heritage application. Spurred on by my elder (by 12 years) brother, I began in earnest to try to find the horse thief who surely must have existed in my (father’s) family tree. I even subscribed for a year to their online services to more readily access documents I felt would aid in my search.
Well, here I am months later, with some 385 individuals in my tree, with 947 links to other folks’ trees, almost 200 supporting documents, and as far as my original quest—to find out what the big secret was—I am precisely where I started.
While in another branch I found a gambler and bookmaker, the answer I sought remains a mystery. I even found a thrice-wounded Confederate soldier who succumbed to his last wounds, so it’s not boring.
Meanwhile, most of the branching-off has been not in my genetic past, but in that of my brother’s current wife. Apparently, knowing one’s heritage is as important to her relatives as it was in biblical times.
That’s not why I began pushing this bolder up this hill, however, and I have decided to expend any future energies in this area toward my original pursuit. I am therefore no longer going to spend my time entering data and confirming matches on any branches not related to my own ancestors and those of my wife.
It turns out that this Genealogy thing can become a near-addiction. There’s always “just one more thing,” as Lieutenant Columbo used to say, which can then lead to another, then another, ad Infinitum.
Next year, if I can afford it, I will probably pay for a short whack at Ancestry.com just to see if any of their touted services can help me solve my own mystery. Wish me luck.