Friday, September 3, 2010

Down the Path to the Past

Recently a friend of mine was in the process of helping her parents get ready to make a major move from their  home that they had lived in since she was a child.  The move wouldn’t be far, from one city to another, only a short 35 minute drive away.  In the process of boxing up their home, her dad came across some old keepsakes that he had put away on the top shelf of the closet.

He sat down on the edge of the bed, with his daughter by his side, and opened the box to try and make a decision as to whether he wanted to throw everything away or move it to the new house, where it would probably once again be relegated to the top shelf of the closet. Upon examining the contents of the box, there were letters and post cards from years gone by, containing both happy and sad memories of his youth. There was a death certificate and military metals along with a few photographs. As they sat there together, talking about the past, he confessed to his daughter that he really wished he knew more about his mother, maybe it would help him understand her more if he knew about her family and her past.

She happened to know that genealogy is one of my passions, I enjoy the excitement of looking for ancestors. It is like 4th of July and Christmas all wrapped up with a big red bow when the pieces begin to come together and you build your family tree! I felt so honored that she would ask me for my assistance and we began our journey down the path to the past, putting the pieces together. 

One thing that is interesting is that there are documents that were in the box indicating family member’s on her father’s dad’s side of the family saying that one of his relatives was dubbed a knight by the Queen of England. We have been able to take her family tree all the way back to the first recorded entry (at least on the internet) of her father’s family the one who had been dubbed a knight by the Queen and further!

 On her dad’s mother’s side, we have been able to go back to the early colonial days of Georgia  We made contact with several relatives through  the Ancestry and Roots Web message boards and have now been able to trace the mother’s side all the way back to England as well.

Collectively, we hit several stumbling blocks along the way but have managed to iron all of them out except for two generations where there were multiple marriages with children born of those marriages; many of them having identical names! We have pretty much determined the actual direct line for her particular ancestors by a process of elimination and by looking at census reports where we could locate them as well as researching historical publications in libraries locally and publications on the Internet.

During our search, I personally found that I could locate most of the census reports all in one place, easy to search and easier still to read, were located through heritage quest.  By using my library card, I was able to sit at my computer in the comfort of my own home and spend hours going back, year by year, as well as researching many different states all from one website.

I also found  some wonderful help with local histories written at heritage quest .  I also I became familiar with Google books, a resource I had not used before.  I was not aware that they had so many historical publications available in their depository.  I just plugged in the surname I was wanting to research and all types of wonderful references popped up!  Some were not her direct line but were certainly secondary branches of her family.

Another thing that I did at Google books, I input the names of actual publications that were used as references and of the ones I checked, they were all there. I did not locate any of the genealogical magazines that were used as references though.

My friend has learned how to install a software family tree program and input all her data and how to correct mistakes we made along the way.  She is uploading pictures into her program and adding interesting notes as well as stories about different people that she has heard. I think now she is as addicted as I am to doing genealogy. she has found it to be both exciting and frustrating, just like the rest of us! But we continue always on our quest, no matter what.

The final product will be a wonderful gift for her father, all put together in a book and the smile on his face will be priceless! I wish I could be there for the grand unveiling!

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