Visiting cemeteries at such an early age with a grandparent who could tell a good story about who you were visiting meant that cemeteries weren't creepy places that should be avoided. To me, they've always been places of personal historical significance where a person can stop by and remember their kin and maybe them bring flowers ("Watch where you're walking, Laurie. Don't step on my mother, dear."). Proper cemetery etiquette is burned into my brain like the alphabet.
When I got a little older I'd go to the library and pick up genealogy books, though not exactly sure what I was looking for. I'd read old newspapers on the microfilm machine, or I'd study old maps - I love maps. But with my grandmother gone to meet up with all the people she'd told me stories about, I didn't know where to begin. Back when we lived in Maine, my grandmother would drive to Augusta to pull family records but being transplanted 3,000 miles away from New England it seemed an impossible task for me. How could I mail away for records if I don't know who I'm looking for? And if I knew who I was looking for, how do I know where they lived? And when? And who do I mail the requests to? How would a birth certificate or an application for marriage license help me? Where do I find the addresses for that?
Then Al Gore singlehandedly invented the Interwebs. Alone. In his garage during his spare time or something. Suddenly, all sorts of genealogical websites started popping up. RootsWeb, CyndisList, FamilySearch, Findagrave, Ancestry.com...Hallelujah! But that didn't solve the problem...where to begin? This is the most popular question I'm asked by friends that have read my genealogical posts on Facebook: "Where do I begin?"
I began where all genealogists begin. I began with myself. Voila! One entire generation complete!
|My Grandmother, Laura Lancaster|
Over the years, I've learned how to cast wider nets on Ancestry and other genealogical websites to find the more illusive relations. I've learned how to trace branches forward and find long-lost cousins. I've learned how to "Google" up the living and the dead. I've found places where all sorts of interesting public information is kept online - and I keep finding new ones. I've met some amazing people, some of which I share a branch or two. Or three. Or four.
If I can do this, you can do it, too.
Today, my tree includes a couple of thousand well-documented grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The longer I do this the more I'm convinced that everyone on the planet is just part of one enormous family. Everyone is everyone else's cousin. And I'll be done when I've made note of all my cousins.
Backed up with proper documentation, of course.
*You do not need a subscription to Ancestry.com to check out census records. Google up your local Genealogical and Historical Society- for about $20 a year you can become a member have access to the best the Internet has to offer in the way of premium paid genealogical websites at the library. And you'll have a friendly docent sitting at the desk to help guide you. Granted, you can't "save" people to an online tree but you can print out the information. It's best to print out the information anyway. In case your computer crashes. Three times. Over the course of 5 years. Just sayin'.