Sunday, March 14, 2010

crawling through the family tree

The bug bit. I got curious and went online to look up "a couple of things" related to my family tree. Spent more hours than I want to tell you there yesterday! In my defense I'm trying to make the most of a 14-day free trial of online access while I've got it. Can't afford to pay the annual fee for continued use.

Anyway. I had a blast! Thanks to the work of others before me I was able to go back additional generations here and there, as well as fill in some gaps in the information I already had. And I learned, for instance, that I've got a lot more Irish in me than previously thought. Just in time for St. Patrick's Day! Of course this will probably start an inner conflict with my stalwart Scots cheering section, but I'll deal with that later.

It can be dangerous, however, to rely on the work of others, and there's some fact-checking I need to do soon. For instance, does it not occur to the eight family tree chart-makers already posting that the daughter of a couple from whom they descend has a birth date five years later than the death of her mother? Or that another daughter on another branch of the tree has a birth date more than one hundred years later? Hello! No matter how much the information makes sense on the one hand, it doesn't stand up to the test of reality.

I will confess here and now, however, that my own transcription errors have been caught in the process of doing this. But it's also fascinating to see the actual, hand-written census data from 1900 and get some interesting information. Handwriting can be a trick to read. And then there's the grandfather named Louis whose name was written Lewis. I am appreciating anew that there is no such thing as perfection when it comes to recording human information. Genealogy is not a science.

It is, however, a fascinating journey that takes surprising turns and offers up frustrating dead-ends. No matter. It's discovery, pure and simple, and we get glimpses of lives in other times and places that launch the imagination. There's nothing else like it.


Jules said...

My uncle Mike (9 mo. older than me) and I have been researching our heritage for quite some time great great grandfather had 33 children and one of my great great uncles was Louis Cyr, the strongest man in the world some of whose records still stand to this day! Too much fun!

Jayne said...

It is a very time consuming process, but I can imagine the rewards are great to be able to track down long ago ancestors. It's truly fascinating stuff!

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