When most people hear the word “genealogy,” they usually say they have a cousin or great aunt in the family who is the “keeper of the family tree.”
Today, however, genealogy is one of the largest and fastest growing hobbies in the United States. Even the Boy Scouts offer a genealogy merit badge and many genealogists are becoming certified, moving up from a hobby to an occupation.
In recent years, genealogy has undergone a tremendous evolution, no longer just boxes filled in with names and dates, connected by lines linking each generation to the next. Although charting your family tree is important, today, the scope of genealogical research is much broader, with more and more people joining local genealogy groups or searching the Internet to find out for themselves just where their families came from, how far back their family lines go and if all those family tales they heard growing up are really true.
Family stories are repeated over and over, generation after generation, at reunion after reunion. It is the “telling” that keep these stories alive through the years. I know I’ve heard them myself and often wondered how accurate they were. It’s amazing how many of these family stories aren’t written down, but are part of a family’s oral history.
Then there is the bigger story, the one about how and why our ancestors chose to leave their homeland and were swept up in the massive migration to America and then on to the western frontier. Amazingly, our family stories blend into the historical events taking place during our ancestor’s lifetimes; Aunt Edna making the trip west on a wagon train led by Kit Carson, or Uncle Samuel heading west to Ohio on a barge pulled by mules along the Erie Canal. Not an easy trip for either of them, yet they persevered.
Other family stories are more recent, perhaps some are events we ourselves have experienced. In my own family, I personally knew a great aunt who was born in 1878, who never in her entire life had electricity or indoor plumbing. She was my Aunt Dell, fingers gnarled with arthritis, her hair white as snow, swinging away on grandma’s porch swing. How is it possible that I knew someone born that long ago, a mere 13 years after the Civil War? And I’ve told my own children about her, and so Aunt Dell lives on in my family.
Perhaps you might be the descendent of a Revolutionary War hero, or a Union or Confederate soldier who fought in the Civil War or someone who sailed on the Mayflower. By doing your own research, you can peer into the past to discover just who your ancestors were, where they came from and how those people and events influenced and shaped your family today.
In addition to knowing your family history, by recording your family stories, you give life to those who came before us, who lived and struggled through life just as we do today. And for those who come after us, they will know just who we were as we pass on to our descendants a family legacy rich with our stories and those of our ancestors, not just names on a family tree, but living, breathing human beings, just like us.
So, whether you’re a beginner or have hit a dead end in your research, or you would just like to see what’s new in the world of genealogy, please join us on Saturday, Aug. 13, when the Archuleta County Genealogy Society will host Genealogy Roundtables from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Community United Methodist Church on Lewis Street. There is no charge for this event.
For more information, contact Barbara at 264-2625.