Most hobbies are likely addictive and many of them are tedious, and genealogy is both for me. I do it in spurts of frantic activity, then I find myself so confused and braindead, I have to take a break.
My daughters and I have been working on our family history ever since it was an assignment in the oldest’s junior year of high school. The goal was to teach students how to do research involving original documents and how to gather ‘living’ history by interviewing their oldest ancestors.
Two amazing things happened quickly. First, I found my daughters excited about going to family gatherings. They finally knew where they fit in. Second, they (and I) learned that “the elders” have a lot to tell us if we will only ask. There have been instructional stories (some with drawings) on how to wring a chicken’s neck, how to make soap, and most importantly, how to cook beans and cornbread.
We were lucky that my mother’s older sister had started collecting information about her lineage when she was 15 years old. She left us a goldmine of information on my mother’s side. My grandmother had given my brother a genealogy book filled out with information about my father’s side. With this information, a lot of the work that had to be done was documentation.
Either together or separately, we’ve visited several courthouses and even with the massive databases online through Ancestry.com, the only way (or at least the best way) to get copies of original birth, marriage, and death certificates, or land records is through county or state agencies. Since each copy is going to cost you something (from $1 to $20) it’s best to have a really good idea of what you need. Ancestry is a big help in finding those details. Of course, there’s the membership fee for Ancestry too.
Now one of my daughters has decided she would like to join the Daughters of the American Revolution. Not only must the service of the Revolutionary ancestor be documented and verified, but each generation must be documented, the first three with birth, death, marriage certificates etc. After that, census records are accepted.
Census records before 1850 listed only the name of the head of the household, and counted the rest. That makes documenting parentage a little difficult using that method, so one goes to wills, land records, church records, and cemeteries.
For now, we have identified two Revolutionary veterans and possibly a third. It would definitely be a third, if the Battle of Alamance were considered a part of the Revolutionary War. Our ancestor was one of the six pardoned, so we’re especially thankful to Governor Tryon for that.
To finish the DAR application (which must be submitted on 24 lb. acid free paper) somebody is going to have to do some traveling in Alabama, Arkansas, and South Carolina. I nominate myself, but may have to take up a collection to go.
It’s actually been quite a lot of fun doing this. My sister is now involved, though she primarily concentrates on my father’s side of the family and has made tremendous progress there.