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June 19, 2010

Do You Remember Your First Time?

Do you remember the first time you started your genealogy hunt? I do. My father always talked about wishing he knew where in Ireland our McGinnis ancestors came from. My grandmother (on my mom's side) spoke endlessly of her family back in England.

It wasn't much of a step for me to start asking my grandmother questions. I was only 13 when I began writing down what she told me! I made little charts with the names of her parents, her grandparents and her siblings. I asked for details - when were they born, where did they live, go to school, who did they marry.....

Here is one of the first charts I made at age 14. Lots of blank spaces and question marks for names!

I'm a packrat and I kept all my original notes. I knew nothing about genealogy, in fact I didn't even know that word! No one in my family was interested and no one knew about family trees or ancestry or... anything genealogical. So I invented my own system for keeping track and recording facts. It looked much like the Family Group Sheets we see in genealogy programs today.

Then I began creating charts which helped me figure out what I had and what I was missing. Of course I had no idea how I would ever find the missing bits but I guess I was an investigator-researcher even at a young age. I figured there must be a way.

My next step at age 15 was to go to our local library (where I worked!) and find a book on finding out about one's ancestors. Luckily I discovered Angus Baxter's books on searching for ancestors in Canada and in England, which were the two countries I needed. Then I put my genealogy notes and interests aside for the next 10 or more years.

My next surge into genealogy was in my mid 20s. I was newly married, living in a new town, didn't know anyone and so I pulled out all my notes and charts to review them. I phoned my aunt to ask questions and created new charts and note pages. Here's one from those years.

Then I started searching census records on microfilm. That was my first step into the big wonderful world of libraries, archives, museums, microfilm and all the records I could find.

But how times have changed! Now there are thousands of times more records available. And they're available online. I'm so glad I started my genealogy research at a young age and have been able to take advantage of the amazing record collections available today.

But sometimes I long for those first early days when everything was new and I could sit with my aunt or my grandmother (who are long dead now) and ask a zillion questions. Do you remember your first time?


Sarah said...

I laughed when I read this. I remember, when I first started, I was ONLY going to research my maiden name (Walker). I wasn't going to include anyone else! (How in the world did I think I got here??)

Boy, did things change ....immediately. Thanks for the memories.

Greta Koehl said...

Do I ever remember the day I got started - 1 September 2005 (kinda late, but better late than never). I was showing a co-worker how doing an Internet search on my distinctively spelled maiden name turned up only people who were related to me. One of the search results had some information on my Dad's ancestors indicating that those family myths I was so skeptical about were true. Couldn't stop after that.

Jo said...

Of course I remember (it's what started all THIS, afterall!). I was 17, having a conversation with my father about our family and he told me that myself and my brothers were the only LOOPS in the US. I thought that was a fascinating idea. The internet had just "arrived" at my university so I did a US White-Pages search and came up with more than just my family?!?!? Who Were These People? If our name was made-up, how did they have it too? Ooh, I was hooked from then on. :-)

Good stuff!

Geniaus said...

I think it was in 1988, Australia's Bicentenary, when there was a lot of focus on our history and the convicts who were transported here. I, too, set up my own system using library catalogue cards. I used one card for each ancestor and, yes like you, I still have those original notes.

The Grandmother Here said...

My family history research started when I was a teenager and it was almost time for the Facey picnic and I wanted to know how I was related to all those people. I drew a chart starting with my great grandparents. Because of the large families, my chart stretched sideways with many pages taped together, and I rolled it up like a scroll. I still have it.