Showing posts with label lessons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lessons. Show all posts

Friday, February 16, 2018

Taking Refuge in Your Family History Research

There it is. My happy place.
Genealogy: My escape to a better place and time.

I started this blog to go to my happy place. Genealogy gives me endless satisfaction and an escape from everything bad.

It's hard to concentrate today, though. There's too much bad news and sadness to ignore.

So let's think about why we love genealogy.

It's a neverending puzzle where every piece has meaning to us

Each of us has a ton of ancestors:
  • 4 grandparents
  • 8 great grandparents
  • 16 2nd great grandparents
  • 32 3rd great grandparents
  • 64 4th great grandparents
  • and let's jump up to 4,096 10th great grandparents
That's a lot of puzzle pieces to find! Keep in mind your numbers may vary a little if any cousins married. For example, my paternal grandparents were 3rd cousins, so they share a branch of the family tree.

It helps us imagine our ancestors' lives

I learned some concrete facts about my ancestors' lives by examining thousands of vital records from their towns:
  • the average age at which they married.
  • how many babies they had.
  • how quickly they remarried when their spouse died.
  • the kinds of work they did.
  • how many babies were born out of wedlock.
It helps us understand how we came to be

When you fill in your grandparent chart with generations of your ancestors' names, one thing becomes clear. Thousands of people had to marry one specific person and have one specific child for you to be born!

It's fun to solve those mysteries

Mystery 1: My family always wondered why my father's parents had the same last name. We knew it wasn't a common name. But they never told anyone the reason why.

Genealogy research led me to Francesco Iamarino born in 1784 in Italy. He was the 2nd great grandfather to both my grandmother and my grandfather.

Mystery 2: At my mother's birth, the doctor asked my grandfather, "What are you naming this baby?" He answered "Mariangela"—his mother's name.

The problem is, I found my great grandmother's 1856 birth record, and she was named Marianna. She had an older sister Mariangela who died as a little girl, but she was Marianna. Why didn't my grandfather say "Marianna"?

Some more genealogy research led me to that answer, too. My great grandmother had five children. On some of their birth records she is Marianna and on others she is Mariangela.

Mariangela may have been her preferred name. My grandfather may never have known his mother's name was actually Marianna. So he proudly named my mother for her: Mariangela.

My Happy Place

If I could spend all my time doing genealogy, I would. We all deserve happiness. May your family history research bring you as much joy as mine brings me.

Stay connected! Follow me on Twitter or Facebook and know the moment a new article comes out.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Can Genealogy Research Be Painful?

You bet. Last night I went with my husband and his sister to an exhibit at the FDR Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York. It was a wonderful exhibit (see the virtual tour), and we were treated to a guided tour by the curator and a docent who were very knowledgeable.

But the subject was an extremely painful part of my husband's family history: the shameful incarceration of all west-coast Japanese and American citizens of Japanese descent during World War II.

Before I met my husband I visited a similar exhibit at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. At that time I didn't know any Japanese Americans personally, but I was moved to tears by the images of American citizens being forced out of their homes, losing their businesses and possessions, their farms and houses, and sent to the middle of nowhere indefinitely under armed guard.

Last night, seeing images of the very camp where my in-laws were kept and where my husband's great grandfather died made me cry and made me sick to my stomach. But this is an enormous part of my husband's family history and worth preserving. The experience certainly shaped my late father-in-law's character, and that was not lost on his children.

I may spend countless hours gathering names and expanding my tree, but an exhibit like this provides so much insight into the character and experience of our ancestors. It is priceless.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Let YouTube Tell You What You Don't Know

Are you overlooking one of the biggest free genealogy resources of all? If you're new to genealogy, or you've been doing it long enough to know there's more to learn, you'll be amazed at all the lessons you can learn on YouTube.

For starters, there's a seemingly endless amount of genealogy videos produced by for free. Simply go to YouTube and subscribe to the Ancestry channel.

You'll find groups of videos including Ancestry's Desktop Education Series, featuring titles such as "Ways To Clean Up Your Family Tree", "Documenting the Enslaved in Your Family Tree", and "What Does That Say? More Paleography Tips & Tricks" designed to help you decipher difficult old-style handwriting.

Search within the Ancestry channel on YouTube for whatever you need.

Use the search tool to find videos on a subject of particular interest to you, such as census forms. Or search for the very likeable and extremely helpful Crista Cowan, an expert genealogist who's lucky enough to work for

There is a very good chance you'll find a valuable free video on any subject that's important to your genealogical research. Be warned: These fabulous videos will show you how much you're missing by not subscribing to, but so do shows like "Who Do You Think You Are?" and "Long Lost Family". I'm not trying to sell you on anything, but if wants to hire me, and I can work from home in New York, I'm in!

But Ancestry's videos are just the tip of the iceberg. Search the site for "genealogy" or a more specific phrase, like "civil war pensions," and start watching. When you find a video provider whose work you enjoy, like Crista Cowan, subscribe to their channel. Subscribing to a channel simply means you'll be offered their videos first, and you'll have a convenient way to return for more.

There's nothing like a show-and-tell to teach you how to use a resource or point out exactly what you can find on a particular type of record. Watching a genealogy video may become your favorite way to start the day.