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Geneaology - Are You the Family Historian?

Updated on July 17, 2013
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Linda lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia. She has been researching her family history for over 40 years.


The Question: Why Me?

Are you curious about your family history? Do you ever wonder why you became the family historian; the one whose duty it has become to discover all those little details of the family tree? Many of us begin researching our families to answer some question of relationship or to fill in some gap in our family history. As we begin the search for lost ancestors or records, it is impossible to predict where the journey will take us. Genealogy is a science, albeit a very random one at times. For the trained researcher (which I am not), there is a methodical process for finding that elusive piece of data. For me, it is a fluid process that changes with each research session. That just might be why I've been looking for the same ancestor for over three decades to no avail.

I often wonder what leads us to do this work. What is is that makes one person willing to do it and not others in the family? In previous hubs I've already discussed my theory that in each generation there is one person who is destined to be the family historian. But are there other reasons too?

Is there something within us that feels incomplete? That seems like a logical answer for those that were adopted out of their family or fostered, losing touch with their biological family. But what about those of us who grew up with our biological family, knowing who our grandparents, and even great grandparents were? What is that we're missing?

Are we different than our siblings? Do we have such different qualities or interests than everyone else in our family that we just never really felt like we fit in? This is the question I am beginning to ask myself. You see, I am different than the rest of my family and I guess I want to know why. Subconsciously, I am hoping my research will tell me "who" I really am. I want an explanation for why I think and feel so differently than everyone else in my immediate family.


Historically I know that everyone in my family history worked hard. They weren't wealthy or educated. The men were carpenters, farmers, laborers, and the like. The women were mostly - mothers. I can't identify any woman in my family who had a career outside the home until my mother's generation and they worked because they had to, not by choice. There are no celebrities in my family but there are heroes. They are the ones who fought for our country and stepped up to help their neighbor. They are my heroes anyway.

So what do I mean when I say I am different? Well, I'm not good with my hands. I don't have any artistic talent. I am not skilled at any craft, even though I do love to write. Others in my family paint, draw, make beautiful stained glass art or metal work, or create beautiful art from wood. Not me. Gosh, I even took piano lessons for eight years as a child and now, can't read a line of music.

I am the emotional one; the one that is driven by her heart rather than her head. Everyone else in my family is logical, ruled by their head first, heart second. I wear my heart on my sleeve and cry over the silliest of things. Oh yeah, I cry over everything, both happy and sad things. No one else in my family does that, although they are very caring people.

My family thinks I'm a rebel; the one who won't fit in a box. Maybe they're right. I am passionate about things I believe in and will fight for them. Social justice or injustice drives me over the edge. I've organized demonstrations, volunteered for political campaigns, and for a while, even volunteered in our prison system because I didn't believe that our judicial system was treating incarcerated Indians fairly. That's a story for a different day. My point is, most in my family have strong opinions but they keep them to themselves. Not me. I want to be a catalyst for change and I don't mind putting myself on the front line to do it. Where does that passion come from?


Finding Your Roots

Just maybe there is someone in my family history who thought like me; someone I've yet to discover. Did he/she work for social equality or fight for some small American Indian tribe who was losing their land to the big mining companies? Perhaps they made a difference in the outcome of a war because they took a bullet for their commanding officer. I want to know who they were. I need to know because if I can find them, perhaps I can find me.

I bet Henry Louis Gates Jr. and his team on Finding Your Roots could find my ancestor that passed this rebellious, passionate, emotional gene down to me. When I watch the show, I often find myself thinking that they should trace the roots of an occasional "nobody" on the show. I've contemplated writing to ask for their help but hey, my ancestors were so poor they don't even show up on most paper records. And, who pays for those trips around the world to discover the roots of all those celebrities anyway? My 5th great grandfather came to America from Ireland and I know I can't finance the trip. Besides, most professional genealogists charge at least $100 per hour and I can't afford that either, not for a long list of elusive ancestors.

Keep On Keeping On

This gene that has been handed down from some unknown ancestor is a gift. It makes me stubborn and unwilling to give up. I am searching for "me" and I won't stop. Sure, I know who I am today and I am happy with who I am. I like that I have an opinion on almost everything and that I have compassion. Curiosity is second nature to me and I am not afraid to stand up for what I know is right. Still, there is a piece of my puzzle that is missing. And until Henry Louis Gates calls, I will just keep digging. Tools such as, Family, Find A Grave, Gen Web, Cyndi's List, and others will support my search. Although I may not find the answer today, each day there is new data being added to all those sites and sooner or later, I will find - me.

© 2012 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.

Read more of my hubs here.


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