When I started researching my family history in the 1980s, I knew very little about any of my ancestors, even less about their countries of origin, and next to nothing of our shared heredity.
Neither of my parents were very interested in genealogy. I didn’t hold out much hope of discovering vintage family photos or treasured documents salvaged from my ancestors’ lives.
And stories? Not possible.
There was a lot of commiserating / collaborating with other researchers in the early days. Many of those folks became invaluable teachers of methodology and beacons of hope for beginners like me.
Back then it was all letters and phone calls, visits to libraries and court houses, and holding magnifying glasses over blurry photocopies.
Fortyish years of research are now in the rearview mirror. As I look back, I realize the countless ways in which I’ve been blessed.
As it turns out, vintage family photos, treasured documents and yes, even stories, exist in nearly every branch of my family tree.
From all walks of life, distant relatives and even complete strangers stepped in and shared pieces of a family tree puzzle. Their pictures and stories helped bring my ancestors to life.
Most of those storytellers are gone now. Thankfully I took copious notes and/or recorded many conversations. And today there are so many records available to corroborate the who, what, when, and where of the stories that make family history so interesting.
The task ahead (of course) is to compose these stories for a future researcher who may wonder what the people who share their DNA were like.
How do I choose which ancestor to write about first?