I’ve done it. I’ve finally committed to one of the many writing challenges I’ve pondered for the past year. And this is no topic-of-the-month challenge – this is a weekly challenge. Odds on completion are low, but a thing not started is never done, right? As this is a genealogy website, you can guess that the challenge is genealogy related. The goal is to spend the year documenting those family stories that are easily lost to time and other projects and priorities. Check out this post from certified genealogist Amy Johnson Crow for some great prompts and other writing ideas #52Ancestors!
The first challenge is to start with yourself. I like this prompt, not because I enjoy telling about myself, but because I love hearing other’s “origin stories.” The story of how we ended up where we are is often full of twists and turns and mine is no different.
That’s when it started.
At my grandmother’s kitchen table.
That’s where it started.
I’m pretty sure the reason was some assignment for school. But that is less important than the fact that I was hooked. The partial family group sheet pictured above (cropped for privacy) has a few of the many blank spaces found elsewhere on the form. I’d picked my grandmothers’ brains and filled in as much as they knew or we found in their papers. But it wasn’t enough, no one knew who Jesse James Weathers’ parents were, or those of several other great grandparents. I love a challenge and I just knew I’d be able to fill in those blanks.
And so it began. Mom and I trekked to the Georgia Archives where I got my first taste of archive-anxiety. We found a few nuggets and convinced my grandfather to show us some old family cemeteries. I still have those notes. I graduated high school and spent the next twenty years in the Navy and raising a son. I dabbled in research when I could and was thrilled when I first discovered the online world of family history message boards and old Rootsweb forums. Then there was Ancestry – a bare bones version of the dynamic website of today. I ordered vital records and corresponded with distant cousins who graciously shared their work. It was enough to keep me hooked for the years I was away from any relevant repositories. Then I retired and any hope of ever sleeping a normal schedule again went out the window…I had high-speed internet and branches that needed filled in.
I wish I could say I’ve finally completed that original family group sheet, but there’s still the matter of Little Granny’s elusive parents and some Eley’s that may need closer scrutiny. The Shireys and Prophetts still offer the most promising trip across the pond, though I’ve still not definitively tied them to anyone outside of North Carolina. I submit that anyone with long roots in the deep south who has “jumped the pond” with an ancestor is a very skilled and talented researcher with a lot of time on their hands! I’ll get there eventually!
The exposure I’ve had over the past year to professional genealogists and those doing this far more consistently and efficiently than I have over the years has opened my eyes to the potential for my own research and ways to enjoy this vocation while helping others realize their goals. I hope my stories inspire or inform you to start telling your own. Meanwhile, I think I will henceforth establish April 15th as my own personal Genealogy Day. How shall we observe the occasion?