Why Genealogy? I Ask Myself That Periodically

So why did genealogy become my hobby? I hate people who wear their ancestors as a badge. I’m not a dog that need a documented breeding bloodline. Does it matter who my 4th great grandpappy was? I want to be taken for my merit not the merit or misdeeds of people I didn’t know and couldn’t influence due to linear aspects of time. Yet, genealogy is one of my favorite hobbies. Why?

Thomas Fain Bright Family with Father-in-law James Madison McCravey former Confederate Solider

Thomas Fain Bright ( the chair front row on left) is my great grandfather on left. His wife next to him Molly I remember her funeral. Her father is James Madison McCravey at the end on the right (my great great grandfather) fought in the Civil War as a Confederate. Leslie Bright the boy in the back row in about the middle of the photo is my grandfather.

I’ve always loved history.  I’ve liked tales of the past as long as I can remember. I don’t know why but it’s always made me feel better to think humans have experienced the same feelings I have for thousands of years. I loved historical romances when I was a young girl. In high school I had a teacher, Liz Morrell, who challenged me to look at real history through real people’s eyes. I loved it even more. If you want a good mystery – read history there’s plenty of them. Want a good scare – read history there’s plenty of them. Want the feel good story of the year – read history there’s plenty of them. Want steamy romance – read history there’s plenty of them. I think you get my point. I found all I wanted in real true tales. History isn’t just dates and military movement to me but people living life!

Genealogy was a way to get the everyday person’s view of history, their world at that time. Depression job loss – my grandfather’s time with Singer Sewing Machine Company I posted about. How it is to come of age – my other grandfather’s clothes progression to long breeches. Horrors of Andersonville, Sultana, explosion and what happened to the families that endure such painful loss – I’ve found them in my family tree.

Pleasant M Rogers and Margaret Clark Rogers Family

The father Pleasant M Rogers is my 2nd great grandfather. Next to him is his wife Margaret Clark. He’s holding Minnie Christine. She’s holding Josie M. Sitting on the ground is William Victor. Standing behind is Ida Alberta my great grandmother. Photo taken about 1891

Honestly it doesn’t HAVE to be my family tree. I’ve helped friends intrigued by stories I’ve found in my tree find some stories in theirs. The child left to be raised by an aunt & uncle grew up thinking they were the parents but noo, life changed when all was flipped. What happened to the lost child of someone? Find their life and tell it – who knew he’d wind up out west panning for gold then have a hand in the railroad dying a rich man?

For me it’s looking into the faces of the pictures I discovered and seeing a person. A person who had feelings like me, who lived events I’ve only read about, and who is now gone but not forgotten. Maybe shelved for years and rediscovered but not forgotten. Now when I eat a Cracker Barrel I wonder who those faces are in those old pictures, what genealogist out there is trying desperately to find a face to put with the story?

Joe Berry Bradford and Pansy Brown family

My grandmother, Winnie Bradford, is the girl behind the one hold the flowers standing between her parents Joe Berry Bradford & Pansy Brown Bradford.

Another thing I’ve learned is we’re all connected. If not literally in the 14 generations I’ve gotten so far then through experiences. To me all of it is ours, our story as humans. How we made it through good times and difficult times. It’s inspiration.

It’s all about citation and documentation. I LOVE to document things and fit them together. It’s the old auditor in me. Want to be put in my family tree program? You gotta have documentation otherwise you wind up in my notes to investigate or in my family lore files. My tree is one that’s well reinforced with documentation – marriage certificates, death certificates, birth certificates, censuses, wills, land deeds, dairies, letters, photos, newspaper articles, and on and on. All to be deliciously filed and scanned and attached to the facts they document. See my penchant for neat files in previous posts.

David Crockett Hicks and Margaret Jane Denton Hicks family

In the middle back row the woman in the dark dress is my great grandmother Ollie Belle Hicks Rolen. In front of her are her parents my 2nd great grandparents Margaret Jane Denton and David Crockett (aka Crockett) Hicks.

This is a job that’s never finished. Every answered question seems to raise ten more questions to answer. I’ll never run out of things to do in my hobby. Every year more are born and more die. You want to fall into my realm of investigation you have to die. I do paper research, grave yard research, book research… I leave the living to my mother. I’m happier in the stacks with that musty smell thinking “AHHH THERE you are! I’ve been looking for you!” Than I am over tea trying to get people to lay their lives open warts and all.

John Bright and Mary Jane Browder Bright my 2nd great grandparents

John Bright and Mary Jane Browder Bright my 2nd great grandparents

Genealogy has given me a topic to discuss with my parents. My mother and I share the same hobby so we can build on what the other finds. My father is a treasure trove of family lore, stories I’ve heard all my life but never wrote down. Now I’m hearing them again and encouraging him to write them down. Oh the lovely hours in stacks that will lead to investigating! It gives us something to share, to talk about, to do together beyond comparing medical visits.

My 2nd great grandfather.

My 2nd great grandfather. He was a sheriff in the mountains of East Tennessee. His son became a revenuer. Looks the part of a lawman doesn’t he?

Finally it gives me something to pass on to my son. Here is who we are. This is how we fit into those stuffy history books. It makes the past live for him because he can say he has a connection to it. I hope it keeps me remembered by my 4th great grandchild. She cared, she cared enough to send these stories down to me so I too would share something with her – our connection to life future and past.

For me it combined my love of history, my love of stories, my love of office supplies (files!), my love of order and documentation, my always needing something to do, and gave me another connection with my parents. I can’t think of a better hobby.

As always I’d love to hear from you. You can comment here (it’ll show up when I get it). You can catch me on twitter as @marylouiseeklund or on Google+ as +Mary Louise Eklund. I don’t go to Facebook any more though there’s an old profile still there. BUT you can email me at marylouiseeklund at either yahoo.com or gmail.com.

Until next time!

4 thoughts on “Why Genealogy? I Ask Myself That Periodically

  1. Unfortunately, there are no old photos or attics to look through on either side of my family. Three of my four grandparents died before I was born. I wish I’d known enough when my grandmother was alive to ask questions. Now I doubt we’ll ever know.

    • Yes my line that comes from Rachel Cummings is like that. She’s the brick wall. I’m a direct descendant of her namesake the daughter of her only son, Franklin Cummings, the daughter was born 6 months after her father died and was named Rachel Franklin Cummings and called Frank or Frankie all her life. The family only had one picture of her and none of her brothers or sister. While doing that I found a Cummings family research group on-line, Rachel immigrated from Ireland with 6 of her sisters. We are trying to put together who they were. In doing that a hobby genealogist from New Jersey interviewed a 90 year old woman that was related to the Cummings line and from the family Bible during the interview fell a photo from the Cummings family reunion in the early 1900s in Pennsylvania there in the photo labeled as Tennessee cousins were Rachel and two of her brothers. So you never know what will turn up. Still trying to figure out who Franklin’s father was and all of the 6 sisters that immigrated to the US.

  2. Until recently, beyond my grandparents I didn’t know anything about my ancestors. I paid for access to Ancestry.com for several months and turned up a ton of information about ancestors dating back to the 9th and 10th centuries (though I’m a little skeptical about the accuracy!). I found out lots of stuff I didn’t know and discovered that much of what I did know wasn’t true. I was totally obsessed for a while–so much so that I finally had to cancel my membership so I could get some writing done!

    • Yes genealogy can be a big time taker! I have to ration out my days to it. I can’t just do it for an hour or so. Instead I allot a day every week or two to Genealogy. As for Ancestry.com I find them a great resource but one has to be wise about what one chooses. I don’t ever use another member’s tree as a source but rather as something I’ll take notes to research. So many member trees do not have documentation which is why I don’t use them. BUT on the record side I’m thrilled with what I can find! On my husband’s family I can track them from when they entered to country to him. He’s a newbie here on his father’s side just 2nd generation! I dream of the day I clear all the little leaves that pop up saying records in Ancestry match this person – pipe dream I know with over 7,147 people in the tree!

      Right now most of my data comes from family attics, basements, cast-offs, and collected that have been given to me. Also I’ve got a rubbermaid tote the big 36 gallon size full of photocopies of research I’ve done at genealogy libraries across the nation. I’m lucky in that I’m standing on the shoulders of previous generation’s genealogist or pack rat families!

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