It seems that we have more
questions about genealogy. A researcher who visited during Scottish
Weekend this year wanted to know, "What if I can't find where my ancestor
came from? What should I do?"
There are a few things you CAN do.
* Have you looked at not just your branch of your family, but at the
* Have you looked for previously unknown family members? (Do you know
about every member of the family you see on census records, for example?)
* Have you analyzed your family's neighbors?
* Have you read the local history of the areas in which your family lived?
* Have you read regional history of the areas in which your family lived?
* Have you looked at the geography of where your family lived?
* Have you considered economics?
* Have you looked at the migration trails near where your family settled?
* Have you considered chain migration?
* Have you looked at boundary changes?
* Have you traced the person's life as far as you can?
* Have you started with the most recent events and moved backwards?
One of my own favorite tools is a historical "timeline." There are common
books that list each year and what happened in those years. Many time, you
can see that this is the time when "free land was given in Alabama" or
"the War of 1812 began" or something like that.
Historians don't have to be genealogists, but genealogists MUST be
historians! You simply have to learn enough history to know what was going
on in the time period you are researching.
Did I forget to tell you that all of this is great fun? It really is.
The author of this piece is unknown, I'm told. It is something interesting
for those who haven't yet started working on their family history.
"My feelings are that in each family there is at least one who seems
called to find the ancestors. To put flesh on their bones and to make them
live again, to tell the family story and to feel that somehow they know
and approve. To me, doing genealogy is not about the fathering of facts,
but, instead, breathing life into all who have gone before.
We are the storytellers of the tribe. All tribes have one. We have been
called as it were by our genes. Those who have gone before us cry out to
us, "Tell our story!" So, we do.
In finding them, we somehow find ourselves.
How many graves have I stood before now and cried? I have lost count. How
many times have I told the ancestors, "You have a wonderful family. You
would be proud of us!"
How many times have I walked up to a grave and felt somehow there was love
there for me? I cannot say. It goes beyond documenting facts. It goes to
who I am and why I do the things I do. It goes to seeing a cemetery about
to be lost forever to weeds and saying, "I can't let this happen." The
bones here are bones of my bone and flesh of my flesh. It goes to do
something about it.
It goes to pride in what our ancestors were able to accomplish. How they
contributed to what we are today. It goes to respecting their hardships
and losses, their never giving in or giving up. It goes to their
resoluteness to go on and build a life for their family. It goes to deep
pride that they fought to make and keep us a nation. It goes to a deep and
immense understanding that they were doing it for us. That we might be who
we are. That we might remember them. So, we do.
With love and caring and scribing each fact of their existence, because we
are them and they are us. So, as a scribe called, I tell the story of my
family. It is up to that one called in the next generation to answer the
call and take their place in the long line of family storytellers.
That is why I do my family genealogy, and that is what calls those young
and old to step up and put flesh on the bones."
If you are the one "called" in your family, do come and visit with us at
The Odom Library in Moultrie.
Did I remember to tell you that genealogy is the number one hobby in the
United States today? It is!