I've been curious about my family history since I was a child. What kid wouldn't be interested to know they were related to a famous historical figure?
I even remember working on a family history project when I was in junior high school, but I didn't "officially" begin my genealogy journey until 2007, nearly 20 years later. Here's my story on how it began and where it has led me thus far.
It all started with a missing stock certificate. As I tore through the house looking in every conceivable place, I happened upon a few unopened boxes that my mom had shipped to me six years earlier.
I knew the boxes contained family "stuff," but I really didn't know what was in them. Curious, I put my stock certificate search on hold and opened the boxes.
Inside were all sorts of documents for people I'd never even heard of. Tons of photos littered the boxes, as did several cases of slides and a slide projector. There were also some heirlooms, a few that I recognized.
And then I saw it...the family tree for my dad's family that I had seen and used all those years ago in junior high school.
Thumbing through the family tree, I still couldn't make heads or tails of it, much like my experience back in junior high school. But unlike my younger self, I was determined to figure out how (or IF) I was related to Noah Webster, the father of the dictionary.
As I searched for the connection to Noah, I began to realize I needed to capture the information I was finding in order to make sense of it all. Since I’m a techie, I turned to a software solution, trying various specialized genealogy database programs until I found one that suited me.
Entering all these nuggets of priceless info, I was able to determine just how Noah and I are in fact related—he is my third cousin eight times removed (try figuring that one out without a program to do it for you!). Lieut. Robert Webster and Susannah Treat are Noah's second great-grandparents, and my tenth great-grandparents. We also descend from Gov. John Webster.
Great! Mystery solved! But my story doesn't end there.
While working on the Noah connection, I became so intrigued by all the branches, twigs, leaves, and berries of the tree that I just had to keep going. Noah is connected through my paternal grandmother, but I still had three other grandparents' families to explore.
Fortunately, I had plenty of resources in my possession, so I continued on, putting the pieces of the puzzle together. I began to learn who those "unknown" people were and how they fit into the family. I loved the thrill of the hunt and I really wanted to know more about these people and their lives.
The unfortunate part for me is that I never really knew my dad or my grandparents. They had all passed away by the time I was twelve. While I have a few memories and plenty of photographs from my childhood, I've had to learn about them through the artifacts I have in my possession, as well as conversations with my mom.
Not one of my great-grandparents were alive by the time I was born, so I never knew them at all. But I feel like I'm getting to know all of them through my research and I feel much more connected to them.
It's an unfortunate reality, and I guess that's why I've caught the genealogy bug. I want to know the people that I never got the chance to appreciate or even meet. I want to learn about the people that came before them. I want to understand everyone's story and ultimately how their lives and circumstances made me who I am.
Throughout the last twelve years, I have learned a lot about my family, both immediate and distant. Learning about my own family inspired me to pursue genealogy professionally, to help others discover their family history and tell their stories.
I hope hearing my story will inspire you to explore your own family history, and more importantly, to preserve the stories and artifacts of your ancestors for future generations.