Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Obsessed with Genealogy

Genealogy is not a foreign word today. If not interested people are at least well acquainted with the term, which sometimes mispronounced, means tracing your family history ... or something like that. The first question out of the mouths of non-genealogists is "How far have you traced your genealogy?" Which family, which line, and how far is far? What do they want to hear? That I have traced my genealogy back to 1000 B.C.? Or should I tell them that I have never gotten further back than one of my great, great grandmothers?

Why do people recognize the term "genealogy?" Turn on the TV and there you have it. Advertisements by Ancestry.com about the shaking leaf and success as well as the series Who Do You Think You Are? on NBC all add to the possibility that people know about the strange word that also entertains and delights us.

It's an obsession. I am obsessed with genealogy. I have no personal life. I don't leave home without my ancestors. Three weeks ago I had my second knee replacement surgery and I took my ancestors with me. Soon after the surgery and before the spinal wore off, I was checking e-mails and family trees on my iPod Touch. I had a stack of genealogy magazines which entertained me between vital checks and physical therapy work-outs.

It doesn't matter how far back I have traced some and not other. Unlike the popular series Who Do You Think You Are?, research doesn't happen in one hour or less, allowing time for commercials. It doesn't happen in one click of the mouse and bingo you have a hit. I have never counted my hits and misses of research, but I am most certain the misses would outnumber the hits. Genealogical research requires patience. I patiently wait for the release of records, such as the 1940 U.S. Census. Records are being indexed and digitized then appearing on FamilySearch.org. The subscription databases are growing with new additions.

Is there some sort of unknown secret to genealogical success? I would have to say yes and no. Genealogists like to share their secrets ... flaunt their "finds." They checked here and they checked there what resources are the best and now to get from 1 to 2. The big secret that I have is to walk in your ancestor's shoes. Go to their level, their time period and then start reasoning. Put yourself in their place. Don't forget to do the unusual. They were humans and just like you and me, they did strange things. That's it! They were human beings. They were not names on a piece of paper or in a computer database.

It's time for my physical therapy to begin. Before long I'll be walking in my ancestor's shoes to the cemetery, to the courthouse and library. I will be an observer in the present with my eyes to the past.

Ruby .... You Go Genealogy Girl #1 ... obsessed and in love with my ancestors!


  1. I absolutely agree with the "put yourself in their place etc." I am heading off to Scotland soon with two of my daughters in tow. We will be literally walking the same streets as our ancestors and visiting (I hope) some of their homes :)
    Good luck with your physical therapy.

  2. i always get the 'how far back have you gone?' question too. there are those that spend their genealogy research collecting names. while that may be fine for them, i am more after the stories behind my ancestors. i hope your physical therapy is not too hard and productive. :)

  3. I'm ready--lets get going! My shoes are shined,camera is charged and ready to trace those steps. @Carol..aren't you girls lucky! Hope you have a great trip and find lots of those ancestors.
    You Go Genealogy Girl#2--Cheri

  4. Whoa YGGG #2 ... not so fast. When recovery pain kicks in I just want to crawl under the covers and scream. Can't even think ancestors. :-) In time though. Then we're off to Salt Lake City.
    YGGG #1 - Ruby

  5. Yeah ... me, too. And I was surprised at how quickly I lost interest in "going way back." There are too many interesting people closer to the present to investigate. And I have brick walls aplenty at the great-, great-great, and great-great-great levels, plus dozens of mysteries I want to solve, including those among some intriguing collateral lines.



Find a Grave

Search 31.6 million cemetery records at by entering a surname and clicking search: