Family History: More Than Just Names & Dates
I'm now well over 2 decades into researching, fact checking and documenting my family history. If anyone had told me back in 2002 that I would spend the next 20 years finding family members - and with no end in sight - I would have told them that they were nuts.
But it's true. I've been searching for and finding family members now for over 20 years, and there is still a huge amount of work yet to be done. I guess I could have taken the easy route and only bothered to document my direct family line (parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.), but that isn't me. I like to uncover as much of the total picture as I can, so I have been filling in information about aunts, uncles, cousins and so on as much as possible.
Along the way I have hit more than my fare share of roadblocks, twists and turns, but that's part of what makes genealogy so interesting to me: you are forever solving a mystery...putting together a giant puzzle that may be missing more than a few pieces. But you push forward, learning new ways to search for the missing information that may just lead to an exciting discovery. Or more.
I didn't start off planning to create a family tree that, to date, has over 23,000 people on it, or one that goes back more than 1,000 years, but that's what I have. I started off like everyone else, filling in names of people that I knew about. With the help of online tools like Ancestry.com, other online family researchers, DNA tests and paying a professional genealogist to check several hundred years worth of data, my immediate family soon contained thousands of cousins, their spouses & children and so on, giving me a much broader view of my family history, and some exciting discoveries of dozens and dozens of past and current historical figures.
I don't understand people who build a family tree and only include their parents, grandparents, etc. To be fair, I'm sure those types of family genealogists don't understand me either, and that's fine. I personally think that people who don't branch out and explore as much of their family as possible are doing themselves a disservice, but to each their own.
For me, having as full a picture of as many people in my family history as possible makes all the time and effort worthwhile. If I hadn't bothered to keep researching, digging into parts of my family that I had never heard of, then I would never have discovered the amazing family that I come from. Not everyone in my family has changed the world in big ways, of course, but those that have left their mark on our shared world history, for better or worse. For a history nut like myself, that's as good as winning the lottery! Although I'd still like to win the lottery...and maybe then I'd have both the time and resources to really dig into my family's incredible history!