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  • Paige Nelson

Why should I start a family tree?

Recently a friend of mine asked me “Why do you do family history?” and in that moment I could not think of a single logical reason except that it was “Fun!” I got a blank look to my response, followed by another “Why?” which I could not answer. (Well, not in one sentence anyway)

I had to go away and ask myself the same question and think why did I enjoy it? Aside from reading and finding documents, what was it that had me so interested?

When I was younger, I had no interest in genealogy at all. I knew that my Grandfather had started our family tree and that he spent hours reading and researching, sometimes my Mum was at it too. Boring!

When my Grandfather died, his notes, documents and information were passed to my mother and from there she pawed over everything. She told me she was retracing his steps independently, confirming his findings and considering his writings on social events. I could not even see the point of it. If he had done it already, why bother? I was just not interested in the history of my family; I did not feel like I belonged, so it really didn’t matter to me.

Any time my mother spoke to me about our family tree, it seemed so mundane. I’d half listen as I groaned inwardly, names, dates, places, it all churned around in the trash bin in my mind. This was where I put all the useless information about anything. One day though, something happened that had me scratching my head and asking myself “What vital clues had I thrown into that mental trash bin? Where were MY people?”

The something was a document. An old will. Mum was looking at it, but could not make out the writing, even with her glasses. I looked to placate her only. The writing was cursive and complicated. I saw one word that made sense, then another, my curiosity was piqued. I found names of the family to whom items like “A Brasse pot” had been left. The names of their children, thoughts on their religious salvation, these were REAL people. MY people.

Perhaps that was the reason I didn’t feel like I belonged before….I had not felt a connection. Looking at that will I suddenly understood, it wasn’t just a brass pot! I could see it through the eyes of a dying man from the 1580’s. A possible ancestor of mine was giving his most expensive possessions to those he loved. But not just willy-nilly. He was trying to create an income or retain a home for the females, those who would surely suffer hardship without his help. He had to plan carefully, give clear instruction and all while seeing his own end in sight. He had worked hard to accumulate land and possessions for this purpose, to leave his family with a better chance of survival…..and here I was generations later….surviving.

I asked for more information about Adam, was he definitely my ancestor? When did he die? What happened to his children? What about his grandson also called Adam? Who was his wife? My mother showed me how to search the online tree that she had created. It was easier than answering from memory. Odd I thought, but when I got into the tree, I saw that it included close to two thousand individuals. From there I was hooked!

It became such a great hobby, I could lose myself in the search for hours, noting every snippet of information I could. After reading all I could find online, I discovered there’s a right way and a wrong way to research. With practice, time, effort, and formal training from a university I could do this professionally. Finally, I had found my place in this family and found the career that I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Today I am a dedicated Genealogist Researcher and provide the same enthusiasm for others family trees as I do for my own, because I know that this was a way to honor ancestors.

I love finding the information that makes it possible to remember that they were living, breathing people just like you and me. They got to live in a world that we can only see and learn about from history books and documentaries. They often had challenges that were harsher than our own time, recognizing them now and their endurance, honors them.

Each person has a different reason for beginning their family tree, but one thing is for certain if you want to feel like you “belong” then dive in!

If you do not have the time or resources to do this yourself then we can most certainly help you with tips on your search or even do it for you here at Another Leaf Genealogy!

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