If you ever want to lose countless hours of your life which you can never get back, spend some time working on your family tree. I’ve spent most of my life interested in one line and am now obsessed with learning about the rest.
A DAR chapter registrar asked me the other day if I would be interested in helping with the registrar tasks, obviously hoping to have someone to train. I am interested, perhaps a little too much. Once you begin reading census records, you suddenly look up and wonder where the day went. Your dogs are starving and wondering why their mom doesn’t love them anymore.
At the last meeting, everyone was talking about Ancestry DNA testing. I have some privacy concerns but my grandfather was adopted and he died without knowing his birth parents. He reached out to the adoption agency in the late 1950s and they provided very little information. I’ve decided that I want to solve the mystery more than I care about what Ancestry does with my genetic information. My family tree has (literally) thousands of hints, after all. I can’t possibly follow up on all of them manually.
It has been suggested that I may have more links to the American Revolution than previously documented. Confirming or debunking myths and legends entails reading terrible handwriting with misspellings and inaccurate data. It means wading through disagreements between experts about whether or not lineage has, in fact, been verified. It means hoping irreplaceable records weren’t destroyed in a fire or other natural disaster. It means hoping document translations are accurate. It means squinting at faded, weathered, and damaged grave markers.
The thing is, it matters. All of it. Every single story led us here. Understanding the past helps us make sense of the present. Context is everything. I was looking at some information about my 8th great-grandparents, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1684. Two women were put on trial for witchcraft in Pennsylvania that same year. I’m not saying there’s a connection but I am saying that we tend to think about history in a linear fashion without considering what else was happening at that time. There’s so much more to history than names, dates, times, and places. And since History Channel isn’t really into, you know, HISTORY anymore…I’ll figure it out myself.