Thursday, August 16, 2012

My Genealogical Journey

I've been on a genealogical journey for over 40 years. While I have learned a great deal, there is still much I want to know. This journey has taken me to many wondrous places that I would never have visited if it were not for genealogy. These "wondrous places" include such exotic spots as old family burial grounds, often at the back end of nowhere. In addition, I've acquired skills Indiana Jones would envy, including wielding a machete to cut through underbrush to reach that far corner where my ancestor is buried. I've been a navigator, an explorer and a scribe in my quest to get the family information from those ancient family grave markers.

I've visited places of great learning and knowledge ( i.e. libraries and archives). I've sampled the secrets hidden in those musty, crumbling papers and found many answers to those burning questions all genealogists want to know. Where else but in those vast volumes of knowledge could I have learned that my 2nd great grandmother, who looks so demure in that old black and white photograph, thumbed her nose at society by rearing several children without the help of a husband. Where else would I have found out that blood loses when there is a dispute over land among family members? Yes, I've found many answers, but I also have many more questions.

My journey has allowed me to walk the same land as my ancestor, visited the church he attended and placed my hand on the tombstone his widow had erected after he died. I even have a lock of his hair snipped from his head shortly after his death and cherished by his descendants (well, at least those descendants who don't think it is creepy).

Traveling this journey is not for the timid and faint-hearted. Not everyone is chosen to be a genealogist and there are requirements, you know, to become a good genealogist. First and foremost, a proper genealogist needs to be persistent and question everything he is told, including those court clerks who say there is no such record on your ancestor. Don't believe it until every corner of the courthouse has been searched, including those dusty old boxes in the attic.

A good genealogist isn't afraid to ask questions ... ok, to be honest, you have to ask questions over and over to make sure you haven't missed something. Who knows when someone you least expect has that little piece of information to tie together those family relationships.

If you have an aversion to dust and mold, you are not destined to become a Big Time Genealogist. No, no! I've never met a courthouse basement that didn't have a lot of dust and a little mold lurking in the corners and under the stairs.

Most of all, every good genealogist needs to have a sense of humor. Humor will get you past the shock of finding out about 2nd great grandma's penchant for having children born "on the other side of the blanket" and that great grandpa had several encounters involving guns with the local sheriff.

The best part about being a genealogist and making this journey is meeting people, some of whom will become lifelong friends. I've met cousins by blood and cousins by heart and I would not trade them for anything.

Copyright on text and photographs
by Brenda Joyce Jerome, CG
Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog

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