It's true that as a child I always had an interest in the generations that came before and pestered my grandparents with questions.
At any rate, that's how I begin the story I always tell about how I got into genealogy.
But it isn't the full story!
I got interested in archaeology at a very young age, too, maybe even younger.
I remember learning about Pompeii in elementary school and obsessing over pictures of the perfectly preserved ruins and people. The discovery of the Titanic similarly enthralled me.
I recall writing a report about the Etruscans, the topic chosen because I intentionally wanted to write about the most obscure ancient civilization I could come up with.
And I went on my first dig in 5th grade in the yard of a Colonial mansion near when I grew up. (OK, it was the student section of a real dig, and they planted artifacts for us to find. But still!)
And I imagined the secrets still buried within the tel, the large mound whose layers were made up of thousands of years of successive settlements...
When I returned from Israel, I started reading about archaeology again, and my old obsession returned. I decided that I wanted to become an archaeologist.
That summer I took a class in which we looked at Ecuadorean pots under an electron microscope to determine where they were made, and a year later when I went to college, I made Biblical archaeology my major.
The summer after my freshman year, I went on a dig to Ashkelon, a city in the south of Israel. Every day for two months I awoke when it was still dark, dug until early afternoon when it got too hot to stay outside, and spent the afternoon washing pottery in a tent.
While my closest friends excavated Canaanite burials at a breezy part of site overlooking the Galilee, I was assigned to the hottest, dustiest area, where we were at the level of the ancient Philistine city c. 1200 BCE (where Samson killed 80 men according to Judges 14:19).
While my friends were finding jewelry and offerings in the Canaanite tombs, I spent the whole summer tracing a foundation wall. On my side of the rubble I discovered a shape in the ground. No one knew what it was or if it was a significant find. We called it "the enigma."
Meanwhile, on the other side of the wall someone discovered an intact oil lamp that had likely been left as an offering to the gods to protect the house.
And a few feet away, someone who had been toiling away in an ash pit as boring as my enigma made a discovery that revolutionized the entire field of Philistine archaeology...
...pottery shards depicting people!
Just weeks before this discovery, the experts who wrote the book on Philistine pottery lectured us that the Philistines did not make graven images, which, they hypothesized, was where the neighboring Israelites got their prohibition from.
With this one find we changed the entire field!
Additionally, the style and colors of the drawings were reminiscent of a particular kind of Minoan pottery and seemed to depict a well-known Greek myth. Seeing as how the Philistines had been known to their contemporaries as "Sea People," perhaps this pottery style also helped to prove their origins from across the Mediterranean!
The head of the dig was alerted to the find and came by as the last pieces were excavated. All of us undergraduate volunteers stepped aside as he took over.
He tried to figure out how the shards fit together, but could not. Neither could the graduate student who oversaw our section of the dig. Eventually I stepped forward and pieced them together myself!
(He asked me my name, but never remembered it on the occasions we met afterwards.)
When I returned to school in the fall, I continued studying Biblical archaeology, focusing on the Canaanite period and the origins of the Hebrew people.
In the spring I took a engineering class incorporating computer-aided design & machining (CAD/CAM), and that changed everything. The class led to a summer job at my professor's robotics lab, where I felt a sense of accomplishment that digging my enigma hadn't yielded -- which led me to take more computer science classes to get better assignments at the lab -- which left little room for Biblical archaeology classes.
I still loved archaeology, but I found it easier to make meaningful progress in computer science.
In the end I graduated with a degree in Computer Science and started working on web sites... which is what I've done to this very day.
And the part of me that missed archaeology started focusing instead on genealogy, which I could easily do on nights and weekends. The growth of that obsession I've written about elsewhere.
If I had become an archaeologist, who knows if I would have kept developing my interest in genealogy. Maybe that itch for origins would have already been sufficiently scratched.
The history of our families may be far more recent than the ancient history I was trying to reconstruct, but for me both archaeology and genealogy get at the fundamental questions of how did we become the people we are? And how did our society become the way it is?
So, I'm content with how things turned out. I get to work on everything I love in ways I coudn't have predicted in college.
And if nothing else -- as my mother loves to remind me -- what would I have done with a degree in archaeology?!