My mom is a genealogist. That's what she does as for fun, money, and milkshakes.
I've always heard stories of my great great grandmother Sarah Heald, who sang for the Queen (or was it King?) of England, and then gave up a promising opera career in England to join the Mormon church and settle in a small town in Idaho.
I've always known about Annie Welker and her corncob pipe, who as an early Mormon pioneer, asked her husband to marry her widowed niece in Canada.
|William Brewster has my nephew's eyes|
I've known that both my mom and my dad are related to William Brewster who came over on the Mayflower.
It's part of who I am to know where I came from.
When I look back at these names and dates written on a pedigree chart, I can't help but wonder what if felt like to grow up when they did. I can't help but wonder how my great great grandparents met, and what flowers adorned their wedding. I can't help, as a mother, to sympathies with my great (and great great grandmother) who lost children. I wonder what it'd be like to be the unmarried younger sister, whose name never continues on in perpetuity.
I think every person on this earth has heartbreak, and therefore, every person on this earth has a story. To me, I think about the worst thing in the world that could happen is to be forgotten.
But there's just so many of us on this planet. So many people live and die, and never do anything that lives on or is remembered. But that doesn't mean our stories aren't important. It doesn't mean our heartbreak isn't real and important.
As the product of these strong men and women, whose choices and heartbreak determined how and where I was born, I have to go back and tell their story. Their stories. Because who else is going to do it?
If you don't happen to have a genealogist mother, or great aunt, or second cousin in California that does this kind of research, maybe you are the one who can start. Maybe you have an adventure in front of you in discovering where your people come from.
Here's how you start.
- Ask those who know. If your grandparents are still living, ask them about their family, about their parents, their upbringing. Ask your mom, and your cousins, and just keep your eyes and story net open for stories.
- Look online. Familysearch.org and ancestry.com, are two awesome resources to get started finding your story. Just type in your name, and look at what has already been discovered.
- Look in your community for resources, like heritage centers, or libraries, historical societies. You never know what stories await you, until you look.
One thing else to think about, is that you don't need to research until you find the end of your line in order to find stories. My favorite episode of Who Do You Think You Are was the episode with Rita Wilson. She wanted to find out more about her father, and the secrets she uncovered about her recently passed father could break your heart. It's amazing what we don't know, at least until we look.
It's not about finding dates, and birth records. It's understanding who your parent really are, and what your grandparents felt, and why you were born where you were. It's about finding out where you got your curly hair, or your nose, or stubbornness, or maybe to explain away your children's rebel streak.
It's about connecting the dots, and doing the math, to find out how old someone was when they were married, or lost children, or died. It's about discovering the real life characters who made you who you are.
As a storyteller, doesn't that just make you curious?