Thursday, March 13, 2014

50 what?

Ok, so I failed miserably at doing the 51 ancestors in 51 weeks. But it did get me thinking.

One of the points of genealogy is to know where you came from. I am only about 5 years into this HUGE undertaking and I am just now getting to the point where I am wanting to know the actual stories. Yes, fact are great. Facts and records and such are the bones of the stories. I have been gnawing at the bones for years. Now I'm ready for the meat.

So, where do we start? When trying to piece together bits of information for my second week ancestor, I found myself struggling. I even have personal memories of this person. How do we go from the basic facts to a full on story? How is that equilibrium of documentation and memory met? This is especially challenging when there is no one alive that has personal memories.

The details can fill in those blanks. So you know your grandfather lived on 4th St up until he turned 20. A larger look at those census records would tell you (or could rather) that they lived near family the whole time. There may be an arrival date- did they all come together and settle together? What brought them here? What was going on in the world, historically speaking, at that point? Land patents? War?

I find myself zeroing in on a person, collecting as many records as I can then moving on to the next. After getting past the initial "this is how I think this goes" point and getting to the "but WHY" point, this record collecting has been the bane of my existence. When you take on a challenge like blogging about your ancestors- a new one each week even, you need to know their stories. This is, in part, why I failed. I realized that though I had a lot of the records and documents, I had very little of their story pieced together.

So how do I forge ahead? Now that I have the documents to show the who and where, and even some that show how, I still have details to fill in. Starting lineally, I need to proceed to fill in those details to paint that full picture. This will help me better understand why I am who I am, why my family is who they are. That is, after all, the point of the whole thing, right?