How many names are in your tree? How far back have you gone?
If you’ve ever told anybody that you are climbing your family tree, chances are you’ve heard these questions more than once.
The answer I’d like to give? Ugh. Why?
Because I’m not a collector of names and dates; I collect stories. Some of those stories revolve around one person and take many moons to uncover. No points for quantity here. But bringing one of my ancestors to life? Priceless.
Time travel? I have different answers for different lines. I recently located records for Boulay, Moselle, France for the year 1617. Locating my Schmitts in those records will be cool, partly because Latin is unchartered territory for me. My Tolfs can be located back to 1691; there are extant records for the Swedish parishes in Jönköpings län where they lived. The Carlsons might appear in the Börstil and Östhammar records for 1634. These lines take a long time to follow because I trace more than my direct line ancestors. Since I employ cluster genealogy, I also learn about the relatives of each ancestor.
In the case of my Swiss Muellers, I’m stuck at 1874, the year in which my 2nd great-grandfather Jacob Mueller was married. His not-unusual last name and residence in the Chicago metropolis make tracing him a bit challenging. Swiss records (like French records) are kept at the town level. Before Jacob and I can cross the pond, I need to find a clue (any clue!) pointing to his Heimatort.
Oddly shaped pieces in the big puzzle catch my attention. Repetition among names, occupations, and causes of death pique my interest. I’m climbing my family tree because of the things I learn along the way; history, religion, geography, language, and of course, the story of my family. Those things are more important to me than the number of people in my tree or the date on my oldest record.
Why are you climbing your family tree?