Friday, June 10, 2011

This is the Face of Genealogy

In which I start off responding to a GeneaBlogger meme/call to action and wind up telling you why I heart genealogy ...

This is my dad, George Hall.  When I was a child, he told me stories of his own childhood during the Great Depression that made it all sound like a Great Adventure, despite being one of seven children with a father who wasn't exactly in the running for "Father of the Year," as I found out later.  My grandfather's refusal to speak about his past, and my amazement to find that my dad didn't know his own grandparents' names, are what set me off on my own adventures in genealogy more than 30 years ago.  I am sure his storytelling ability influenced both my interest in writing and in family history.

This is my mom, holding me, and standing next to my "Paw Paw" Stevenson.  When I wanted to find out more about my mysterious grandpa Robert Hall, my mom was the one who taught me the basics of genealogy and she's still the first person I call with new finds.  Off and on over the years, we found out more about Grandpa Hall, though there are still plenty of questions to answer.

For this GeneaBlogger meme, I thought I'd post photos of my parents and me, because the "Face of Genealogy" isn't just wonderful old ancestral portraits -- it's YOU, it's ME, it's whatever you want it to be.  It can be collecting lots of names and dates if that's what you like, and yes, it might be the stereotypical white-haired little old lady with glasses in a musty library (me someday, probably), but it can also be a kid interviewing grandparents about their lives, or a military history fan collecting records and artifacts about his or her ancestors' service.  It can be a family trip to walk in the steps of your ancestors in their hometowns, or it can also be virtual Google Earth tours of ancestral hometowns that you can save to DVD or e-mail to cousins.  There are many "faces" to this hobby, and it's not just about those long gone.

This is me, on my honeymoon in New Orleans, standing approximately where my Carrière ancestors lived in the 1720s.  For me, genealogy has been solving many little mysteries of who/when/where like a crossword puzzle addict, chasing my "mystery grandpa" through the records, collecting and identifying family photos, finding new cousins and making new friends, sharing with family, brushing up my college French, learning more about the history my ancestors lived through, and dreaming of visiting ancestral homelands in Acadia, the UK, Ireland, and Europe.  Perhaps most importantly, to me, it's preserving stories of my family and the lives they led for those to come.

I've looked up Dutch genealogy words, read about Cajun history, photographed cemeteries, learned new tech skills, joined a Hall DNA surname study, found family history gems in my dad's World War II personnel file, and delighted in visiting where my ancestors lived in one of my favorite cities, New Orleans (and that's just in the last couple of years).  It's a varied and fun and wonderful adventure, this hobby, and I invite you to find your own "face" of genealogy.

Text/photos copyright 2011 by Liz Hall Morgan, all rights reserved.