I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve become borderline obsessed with genealogy. When I’m not at work, I’m drinking beer and doing yoga/pilates or drinking beer and working on my family tree. In case you didn’t know, consuming alcohol and engaging in physical exercise go together like peanut butter and jelly. The genealogy is kind of like the ice cream reward at the end.
So in the midst of this Mayflower drama, I have learned some things:
- If you are unable to find what you need at the state level, contact the county. There are many counties with historical records which predate those kept on file at the state level. If you’re searching in New York, be aware of County Historians and don’t be shy about contacting them. Even if they won’t do the search for you, they can at least tell you where to look or suggest a paid researcher.
- Historical societies vary greatly by location. Some cover too much area and are too overwhelmed to help you with searching. Others have volunteer researchers who will go to the courthouse for you and dig up your records for a nominal fee. I just had one in Pennsylvania find a missing link death certificate for me that includes 8 pages of information for a whopping $17.40. That’s cheaper than ordering an official document from Kansas through VitalChek.
- You might have to send letters and mail checks like it’s 1985. Calm down; You’ll survive.
- History doesn’t happen in a straight line. My family tree keeps circling back on itself. I have to figure out how to make Ancestry understand my third great-uncle is also my third great-grandfather. Same guy. Small gene pool. Work with me here.
- History is a whole lot more real when you’re looking at it in the context of your family. Yesterday, I worked on a second cousin thrice removed who worked for the Department of the Treasury in the years leading up to World War I. Those were some interesting times for the US economy. I have a bunch of cousins who are buried at Arlington. With 2,500 people in my family tree (and counting), I intend to rediscover who they were and visit at least some of them while I’m in DC this summer.
My brain feels like I worked all weekend, mainly because I did. I’m tired, confused, frustrated, and utterly addicted. In a couple weeks, I will be hanging out with a few thousand lunatics just like me and can hardly wait.