Searching for my family's history, for me, started long ago - in a time that now feels like a different life.

Being a wife and mom did not seem to be enough for me at the time, so I volunteered on a ambulance service. Working between 15 and 30 hours a week as an EMT, taking care of three children, trying to run a house and all that entails, while being a good wife, wasn't easy, but it is what I did for many years. My interest in where my family was from, really seemed to push its way to the forefront of my thoughts at the beginning of this time. So with everything else, I took a class in genealogy.

The class was interesting and I learned that writing letters to the older members of your family asking questions, while searching records and dusty old books was just part of the process. Off I went, writing letters, mailing group sheets and questionnaires. While waiting for replies, I plowed through every book that my local library had about the area where my family lived.

Over eight hundred miles separated where I lived and where my family resided. Trips were usually once a year when all the elements were in place for us to visit. I asked questions and made notes, but never was able to really get into much of the older family members history. Sadly most of them passed away, before I found the time to start putting all the notes and information that I had found together. Somehow that seems to be the sad song for many who go searching for their roots.

All my notes where saved. For years I collected little bits here and there, from 1971 until about 1993 is a good guess. A box was keep under my bed and when I had a note or some other information, in it would go, to rest among many other bits and pieces.

Somewhere in the early 1990’s I opened this boxes. Children were grown and on their own, had not work for many years on the ambulance, husband was still busy with work, so out came the box. Now I was going to get REALLY serious about my families history. Time was passing swiftly and those that held all of the stories and information were leaving at an alarming rate. But there in that box were notes and some papers that looked like a child had had a temper tantrum. Hastily scrawled piece of information, on backs of envelopes or table napkins, legal pages with dates and names and numbers that made no sense. What had I saved all these years??

In my hurry, scurry world of Wife, Mom and Volunteer, I had neglected something that was very important to me, the person, the daughter, the granddaughter. I had never taken the time or effort, into putting where the information came from, or who gave me the information. Now I can not read my own handwriting on these scraps and bits of paper and all those who could have answered those questions, had passed away.

My parents were still alive, so I contacted my mother and she gave me some of the answers that I needed, but even she in all her wisdom could not answer all of the questions.

 My father past away in 1996 and that was when it hit me, right in the heart, what was I doing?? Wasting time and chances like a drunken sailor on shore leave. Sitting in my Mother’s living room on the day of my Father’s funeral, were the last of his family, 4 sisters and one brother. I started asking questions and the horrible answers I got back, really put the fear in me. None of them had any answers. They had never known much about their grandparents and great grandparents or they could not remember. So I made a bold statement, I am going to find them, but first I need to get organized!!! What do you think of me in my fifty-third year of life learning how to use a computer?? The shock, the gaping mouths, ahhhh-welll-I-aaaahhhhhh-don’t-know-about-that voices and looks, just made me dig in my heels. Yes, I piped up, that is exactly what I am going to do, get a computer and get my self organized and head out to search for my family tree!!

It has been many years since that sad, but monumental day. Oh, I have learned how to use and work with a computer and during the middle 1990’s the world awoke, family history people came out of the dark ages and started putting information on a wonderful, new, shinny, futurist form of communication called the internet. So that now I am sitting here writing about how things evolved for me in my search and putting this short story out to you, to maybe understand one thing …. It does not matter when you start to search, just that you searched.

You can start and stop and start again or you can wait and let all the stories slip away, that is ok. There is no penalty. Those stories came before you, yes, they are gone and never can be brought back, but you are here now and you have a story. Do not let the next generation of family searchers look and find all the stories gone. So the box under my bed is still unreadable, in parts, but I have tried to recreate as many of the sage pieces of advice and stories that I and others can remember. These I would like to leave for the new group who will come after me, searching and wondering and asking questions.

A Journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. - Chinese Proverb

 

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