This post isn’t about my dad. Or his dad. It’s about his dad’s dad’s dad. And the great-great-great-great grandmas that I didn’t know. And my Russian roots. Yep, I’ve been bitten by the ancestry search bug. The genealogy obsession. The “where did we come from and when did we get here” fascination? The curiosity and eagerness to discover someone famous (or infamous) in my family tree. The “let’s see if we can find any records from way back when” fixation.
No ghosts in the attic. I didn’t suddenly wake up one day and think: “Are the stories true that my great-grandparents were first cousins” and “did my grandmothers’ families really live in feuding villages in Russia?” I actually didn’t give my past much thought because my grandparents and their contemporaries are all gone, having taken the history and stories with them. Although I did sometimes feel regret that none of us thought to document, record, preserve, and cherish.
Cousin It[t]. The family tree that I’m building really took root five years ago with a distant cousin that I didn’t know even existed. He was avidly working on his family tree and reached out to my mom and aunt, neither of whom he had ever met, to fill in the pieces. And this cousin (who I can now tell you is my third cousin once removed on my maternal grandmother’s side), after many questions and tidbits emailed back and forth, finally provided my mom with a huge tree, which my mom shared with me, which I glanced at then filed away somewhere. Forgotten for half a decade.
Vice President who? My husband, however, has been interested in his past for quite a while. Maybe that’s due to family lore about some famous relatives in his mother’s tree, two of whom have born out, the third who has been debunked as only a person who coincidentally shared a rather common name. A cousin did the work and shared the basic facts. My husband was intrigued. But not enough to take action. Then his brother started researching the paternal side of the clan and just recently my husband got his hands on the documentation. And he was off and
running researching, ready to see what he himself could uncover.
As seen on TV. Then throw media into the mix. My husband and I got sucked into the drama of famous people learning interesting historically facts as they trace back their own families on “Who Do You Think You Are?” A show that relies heavily on (and is probably connected in some way to) Ancestry.com, a genealogy website.
A tree grows in Kansas. Which brings us to last month when my husband decided to join that site, after
debating the cost thinking about it first for quite a while. I didn’t pay much attention. Other than to consider that since I’m part of his tree, our trees converge. Or is it “diverge.” Which meant that I could build out from what he’d started and take the tree in my direction. If I was so inclined. And, suddenly I was. Because, coincidentally, my younger brother had begun his own ancestry research as part of a school project for my young nephew. Which meant that I didn’t need to recreate the wheel tree, just spend hours and hours and hours copying and digesting it.
And hours have been spent. Mind boggling, vision blurring, head-ache inducing, magnifying-glass wielding, conflicting information filled hours. As I copy facts. As I get confused by ancestors with the same name and by ancestors with variations of the same name. As I get distracted trying to make sense of conflicting and often illegible census records. As I get caught up in the few stories to be told and few pictures to be found. As I wait for documents to be mailed from distant government bureaucracies. As I am stumped by my inability to find information online in the information age.
Daddy’s girl. Which all brings me back to my dad. Who is on my mind because he died 25 years ago this week. Who was adopted as a toddler. Who never searched for any information about his biological parents because he considered his adoptive parents his “real” parents. Could we, decades later, with no records and no family still living to ask for details, find out more? Could we possibly add another branch to the tree?
So many questions, so many relatives, so little patience:(
Have you researched your ancestors? Any famous relatives? Or skeletons in the closet?