Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Maybe, Just Maybe, They're Hooked

Within our own families, genealogists tend to be lonely.

For the most part, we are usually the odd man out, the only one within our family group to be truly passionate about the lives of those who have gone before us. We're treated with a certain mix of tolerance and patronizing smiles if we start talking about great-grandma at any length at the family holiday dinners or if we appear to be doing an "interview" of Aunt Maude under the guise of a pleasant conversation. And while we enjoy the title of family historian when it comes to receiving boxes and envelopes of "stuff" nobody else in the family wants or appreciates, we yearn to have someone come alongside us and share the joy of discovery of our mutual ancestors.

***

This week, I had a glimmer of hope when, not just one, but TWO relatives showed interest in the family tree.

The first occurred when I received an email on Facebook from one of my maternal second cousins who lives here in the county. He had found some indexed information on his grandfather (a line which we do not share) on Ancestry, but not having a subscription, asked if I could look up the details for him with my own subscription. During a followup chat session, I happily obliged and sent a message with his email address to the contributor of that information. He then told me he had recently gotten married (of course I asked for the name of his bride, her birth date and place, and their marriage date and place!) and that they as a couple were interested in tracing their family tree. As a newlyweds buying their first home, their budget is rather tight, so I said I would notify them the next time the county library district asked me to teach my free-to-the-public genealogy class, and I gave him the addresses of several free genealogy websites that I knew would be helpful.

Maybe, just maybe, Carl's hooked.

***

The next happy event took place Monday evening, when I babysat my three young nephews. My daughter usually does this several evenings a week while my sister works as a nurse at a local hospital. However, my daughter was ill (possibly with swine flu), so I volunteered to take her place. As I made dinner, my eldest nephew, who is in fifth grade, did his homework at the kitchen table. He had to read a short story and then write definitions for several vocabulary words based on their context. The selection was about Thomas Jefferson and the Cheshire Mammoth Cheese, and as my nephew read aloud about the background of Jefferson's life, I interjected some trivia that I thought he might find interesting: "Did you know that Thomas Jefferson, who was our third president, and John Adams, who was our second president, were very good friends? They used to write letters back and forth because their homes were far away from each other, but then had a big argument and didn't speak to the other for years. Eventually, they made up...and get this: they both died on the same day, the Fourth of July, on America's 50th birthday!"

Later that evening while we were eating dinner, we got to talking about the family members. I asked my nephew if he remembered meeting his great-grandfather, Robert Lewis Robbins. He wasn't sure. I told him that his great-grandpa had fought in World War Two, and that his great-grandpa fought in the Civil War. "So," I informed him, "you have talked with someone who has talked with someone who was in the Civil War!"

My nephew's eyes got very big. "Cool!" he exclaimed. And then the words that will always be imprinted on my heart: "Aunt Miriam, how do you know so much about our family and all those things that happened a long time ago?"

"Well," I responded. "That's what I do for fun. I learn about all the family members that lived in history and I find out everything I can about them. It's called genealogy."

Maybe, just maybe, Cody's hooked.
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