Smoky Mountain Family Historian

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Who or What Sparked Your Enthusiasm for Genealogy?

Who or what sparked your enthusiasm and passion for genealogy? In my case, it was my Mom. Mom had always wanted to know more about her grandmother's family. She had even made a trip with her mom once to the courthouse in the middle Tennessee county from which she knew her family had come to Mississippi prior to her birth only to be told that all the records would have been lost due to a courthouse fire in 1865.

I'm not really sure what I thought when I first decided to see if I could find additional information for her, but I certainly didn't dream that I'd develop the passion and enthusiasm for genealogical research that I did. I was living in a city that had one of the top ten genealogical library collections in the country at the time. History had always been my favorite subject in school, even though I didn't major in it in college. I think I thought I'd find the answers for her and move on with my life. What happened is that I quickly became so engrossed in the study of my family that I moved from one line to another too quickly, a bad habit of many beginning genealogists.

I also made the mistake of beginning with poor genealogical software. This was back in the days of smaller hard drives and 5 1/4 inch floppy disks. I had a freeware program that allowed the input of basic information and 10 lines for notes. I was an academic and realized that I needed to cite my sources, but how could one do that properly in 10 fixed-width lines? I also had many other things I wished to include in the notes. I developed a short-hand for my sources, but the truth was that I had to go back to paper copies of notes for many of them. Even today I still come across old entries in my genealogical database that I have to fix as I discover them and as time permits.

I'm sure I also made other errors when I first began my genealogical research. I know that I jumped to a few conclusions about who an ancestor's parent might be before I had really performed that "reasonably exhaustive search" that standards require. In fact, there are probably things out on the Internet that I posted long ago (as recently as 9 or 10 years ago) that I would cringe to discover now. I've made the observation to other genealogists that I wish I had time to go back and review the data and conclusions on each of those lines. I never seem to have time to work on my own families any more. That's okay though, because I've discovered a lot of families that are much more interesting than my own in the process. I know one genealogist that sets aside a few hours each weekend to work on her own families. Maybe one of these days I can budget that time for myself but since I still have a regular job, the weekend is my only time to do a lot of things, and I'm very involved with church activities which takes most of Sunday.

I spent last night working with a most interesting church record from the 1820s. It was a case of church discipline. I hope to one day take the research plan I developed and turn this one into a full-fledged article for publication. This person definitely broke several of the ten commandments!

I'm glad that my mother was curious about her family. If she had not been, I may have never discovered the wonderful world of family history and genealogical research.

Who or what sparked your enthusiasm? Feel free to comment here or leave a link to your own blog post sharing the answer to that question.



  • Hands down it was finding out my maiden name wasn't at all what I thought it was. I have spent the last decade finding out about my true name - McNeill, why my grandfather changed the name, and all about his North Carolina roots. It has definitely been an enlightening journey!

    By Blogger Tracy, at 11:56 AM  

  • Mine started with all the stories handed down by my mother.

    By Blogger Mavis, at 9:03 AM  

  • when i found out that as a cockrell i might berelated to laura ingalls wilder

    By Blogger Katharine, at 6:55 PM  

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