My interest in genealogy started after my dad passed away. I was eighteen. I really knew very little about his family, which I expressed to my aunt (his sister) in a letter I wrote to her shortly after he died. She responded, and included the names of my grandmother’s parents and a lists of her siblings. I was amazed. I had people! She couldn’t give me much more information than that list of names, but it began a lifelong journey of discovering those long-lost ancestors.
I started my genealogy journey before the Internet and all its wonders. I wrote letters and waited for responses (and hopefully the document I had requested). I visited my local Family History library as often as I could, filling out slips to request rolls of microfilm. Then Ancestry.com came along.
Right at my fingertips, in the comfort of my living room, were documents and other family trees. Oh, those amazing family trees with MY ancestors. In no time, I had a full family tree with dozens of new names, dates and locations! It was a great collection.
It was just that – a collection. I had names and dates and places, but no sense of who these individuals were, or how they lived, or what they did.
After the initial excitement of those online family trees wore off, I went back to really researching my ancestors. I look at, and for, any document I can find: census records, marriage records, death records, land records, newspaper articles, military records.
And I can tell you the those trees that you find online are not always correct. I have found individuals that don’t belong, dates that are wrong, and details that are wrong.
What I have found in doing the research are details that tell a story. There is a great uncle, who died at the age of 28 (in 1914), in the Virginia State Epileptic Colony in Virginia. Cause of death: Exhaustion (contributing: chronic epilepsy). Another great uncle was killed when he was hit by a train. He had been visiting his brother, who worked on a farm in Maryland.
Even when the details are few, I feel closer to my ancestors than I did when I just had a list of names. Spend some time researching each individuals and make that personal connection. Your genealogy will be all the better for it.