November 22, 2010

The family tree...

My great-great-grandparents
and their five children
on their 50th wedding anniversary
(my great-grandfather, center of top row)
As I’ve mentioned before, family trumps friends for us, with all due respect to our friends.  Perhaps that would explain why presently I have a mere 202 Facebook friends while there are 869 relatives listed in my family tree on my little laptop.  I know that logically it doesn’t explain anything – there’s obviously a greater supply of relatives to find if you go far enough back than there are friends to dig up out of my past and present over my thirty-nine years of life.  But building this family tree is indicative of just how important family is to me.  In fact, it’s important to note that among my “friends” on Facebook are many relatives, close and distant. 

My mother with my grandmother
and great-grandmother
I am an amateur genealogist.  By amateur, I mean that I really don’t have any idea how to officially and properly document anything I find out, though the computer program I use to store the information and build my tree has the capability of recording my sources, adding footnotes, and blah, blah, blah.  I don’t care about all this; I’m just looking for names, dates, places, and most of all, the stories of their lives.
My paternal grandmother
and great-grandmother

Amateur also means nobody pays me anything to do this work.  It’s just something I like to do.  For well over a decade now I’ve been compiling information and piecing together my family’s history, though always with the guideline of never having to leave my comfy chair to do it.  I am a through-and-through stay-at-home mom.  I try not to let hobbies or anything else take me away from my kids.  But this is something I can do in the comfort of my home.  I started with a good framework to spring from, listening to older family members who could tell me things about ancestors they had known but I hadn’t.  I also have my handy-dandy computer program, keeping me from having to use my faulty memory or way too much paper.  With our lineage now traced back fourteen generations in one particular branch, it would take a lot of masking tape and construction paper to build a hard copy of the family tree, so I’m satisfied to build and explore it electronically on my laptop.  That is also where I make use of the greatest aid in my effort to learn what I can without leaving home: everybody’s favorites source of information, the internet.
There are many official resources on the internet that have been a help.  There are also some websites you pay for, but I have avoided those for the most part.  But most of my work is built on the hard work of others, having found on the internet a few relatives who actually knew what they were doing in the area of genealogy, and who kindly shared their information with me.  It caused me to make an exception to the never leaving home policy and meet up with one such relative, my father’s second cousin, whom I’d never met before.  She generously shared everything she had with me, and much of that 869 is thanks to her.  So I will not lay claim to putting an awful lot of effort into that ever-growing tree; but it still is important enough to me to continue to piece it together and work on it when I have time.  It’s an easy project to set aside and pick up whenever I’m so inclined, making it a perfect hobby for a somewhat busy mom.

My husband's grandparents

I don’t limit my “research”, if you can call it that, to just my own line, but to my husband’s side of our family too.  He has no interest in such a pursuit.  He enjoys hearing what I’ve discovered when I find something new on his side of the tree, but only the basic facts and only for a few minutes.  He’s much more of one to live in the present, while I’m one to walk down memory lane and lose myself in it for a while, sitting under the peaceful shade of the family tree, enjoying new discoveries about the life stories of the people we come from, or reminding myself of ones I’ve known for years but that still bring a smile to my face.
I do enjoy this little long-term project, but not for personal gain.  (Though there are rumors we descend from royalty – I’ll keep you posted on that one.  Maybe I could shop at Walmart less often if that turns out to be true.)  I’m doing it to share it with my children.  None of them care right now, but someday I hope they will.  Should our sons take after their dad and give it only a passing glance, perhaps at least our daughter will take after me and cherish the family tree I’ve built so far, and continue to expand it with whatever resources she’ll have access to someday.  And then hopefully it’ll keep being passed along to future generations, who I may or may not meet, but who will know a little something about us.
And so I continue on, gathering details of the lives of our ancestors.  Should it turn out we have blue blood, I’ll keep on blogging, but maybe speaking less of dirty toilets and managing the laundry.  I’ll have the servants do that.  But should the more likely scenario occur, continuing to discover that we come from regular people just like us, I’ll still be here talking about my family, sometimes those from the past, but mostly the precious ones who live here in the Wilburness with me.  They’re everything to me.