I really enjoy genealogy. Seeing my ancestors expand across a family tree, finding out who came to America when, learning from old census information what they did for a living . . . it's pretty cool. I see names repeated across generations, maiden names become given names, and spellings of names morph over time. Each time I find a new tidbit, or fill in another box on my family tree, I feel like a bit of ancient history has come to life again--and who helped make me who I am becomes a little clearer.
I think my interest in family history goes back to stories my great aunt used to tell. She lived to be 92, and had a sharp mind until her dying day. She could tell you names, places, dates, the kind of details that I wish I had recorded back then. She talked about all the distant cousins she had stayed in touch with. They had last names that didn't sound like anyone I could possibly be related to, and they lived in places I had never been.
When she was a young woman, she packed up a trunk and went from central Ohio to someplace in Kansas to stay with cousins for a while. Who were they? I don't remember her ever telling me their name, or where in Kansas they lived, or even how they were related. I have that lovely old trunk with her name written on it, and a shred of the story, but not the parts that really count.
But now I am doing my own genealogical research. With the help of the internet, much is available to help me to fill in names, dates, occupations. I have found fourth or fifth cousins whose last names do not sound like anyone I could possibly be related to, and they live in places I have never been. They have memories, too, and photos, and records they have found about our mutual ancestors. We help each other fill in the an ever-expanding picture of where we come from, and preserve it for future generations.
It isn't always easy to find an answer, but that makes it all the more rewarding when we unearth something or make a link to someone we never knew existed before.
But I still miss my great aunt's stories.