Genealogy Is For Everyone

(This is from a recent speech I gave on the topic of Genealogy)  You probably have a stack of old documents, old pictures, old newspapers or letters.  It’s probably in a box or pile somewhere in your home, or maybe it’s in your parent’s attic gathering dust. Why not put together a family history? Sure, some of you may think it’s boring. It’s old. It has no effect on your current life. Besides, who has the time or energy to go through that stuff?  Let’s get real for a moment. These are all excuses. Your excuses are your own. You have been lead to believe this because it is too intimidating to face the truth.

Anyone can do Genealogy. You have the power.

Genealogy is storytelling

I think that there are people out there and quite possibly in this audience here today that think of genealogy as something difficult, exacting, and clinical. Some may think that you need to be a doctor, have certification, or requires special tools. I am here to tell you that is wrong. Genealogy is storytelling. It’s what the cavemen were doing when they were painting pictures on walls. It’s what you do when you go out to the bar with friends and talk about what happened during the weekend. Genealogy is the study of the wet, sloppy, exciting things that happen in history from a personal point-of-view. What happened? How did your ancestors fit into it all?

Genealogy is messy

·         It’s okay to dig up a little dirt on your family. Most people don’t live a straight line and many don’t have stories that get interesting until the end. Take my 3x Great-Grandma Sara Klinger for example. Sara was born in 1846 and there are no accounts of how she lived until she was murdered. Her life got interesting only after she died. According to newspaper articles, she was beaten and strangled to death by Henry Fisher. He claims that his wife did the murder and he was framed. While in prison, he was also charged with additional murders. After 20 years, it appears that he was released due to insubstantial evidence. This is the nitty-gritty stuff. It’s not just facts and figures. It’s blood, sweat, and tears.

There is No Right Way

·         Don’t let others tell you there is only one way to do genealogy.  So what is the right way?  Any way that lets you record your family history and connect. Professional genealogists may tell you that the best way is linear, to start at the present and work your way back. They may say that you must verify everything before you put it on your family tree and move on to an earlier generation. You and I both know that the world doesn’t work like that. You don’t always have adequate information and you don’t want to just work on one thing. You like to multi-task. You like to paint, draw, and color outside the lines. So do it. Grab hold of your family history. If you want to recreate your family photos as prints on quilts, feel free to do it. While I would certainly recommend proper storage techniques, don’t let that stop you from getting in touch with genealogy. Work with what you have now, you can come back later when you have more resources

Dive in. Grab hold of your family history. Genealogy is not some elite sport. Anybody can do it. If you have documents, use them. Read them. Go to the library. Look stuff up online. Do you have an hour to kill on the weekend; try looking up lost relatives. If you have 15 minutes, hop on Facebook and ask your parents or grandparents to tell you about their childhood. Connect. You can do it. Anybody can do their family history.  Genealogy is for everyone.