Genealogy research and the creation of our family tree is an opportunity to explore who we think we are.
When I first began genealogy research, I was only 12. A school teacher, wanting to personalize our study of the immigration patterns in the formation of the United States, gave us a four-generation family tree chart and told us to “find out where your people are from” so I dutifully went home to ask Mom. She referred me to my dear Aunt Catherine who, unknown to me until that time, was the family’s historian and busy letter-writer to the far-flung families of our lineage.
Aunt Catherine was the classic genealogist – three-ring binder with lined paper, penciled notes and connections drawn in her own hand, with references to places and dates for each person mentioned. When I reached out to her, little did I know that my interest and now obsession with genealogy began! She showed me what she knew, we wrote on my four-generation chart and gave names to people that I remembered hearing about at family reunions. I hadn’t had interest in the stories when I was younger but now the stories began to matter. Luckily, I had Aunt Catherine and othersin that far-flung network of family to connect with. Aunt Catherine helped me to reach out to cousins across the midwest and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (our people on mom’s side first came into the United States via the mining communities of Houghton, Hancock and the Keweenaw Peninsula.
And Aunt Catherine introduced me to genealogy libraries such as the incredible Burton Collection of the Detroit Public Library in downtown Detroit (now one of my truly favorite retreats on a rainy, cold afternoon) and the wonders of indexes, microfilm and books. I was already a committed reader, but now I became a HISTORY reader. It makes a difference when you can connect your people to the geography and history of the development of our country. Aunt Catherine gave me a
piece of copper and told me about the mines of the Upper Peninsula and how our family was a key part of that. She knew that my great-great-grandfather had been a pioneer in Ishpeming and helped to fell the trees that were cleared to create the first roads in Ishpeming and Marquette.
Sitting in the Burton Collection room in later years, I made my first discoveries of royal lineages through a conversation across the table with a fellow genealogist (and distant cousin sharing the same line leading back to royalty) and began to share with my brother’s oldest child that her ancestors were brave, remarkable people that she could be proud of.
Fifty years later, I’m STILL making discoveries and still excited about genealogical research. I’m more discerning now, working to document by the genealogical proof standards, the lineages of our family. I’ve dabbled in DNA research with samples from my mom and me, and learning more every day. Maybe at some point I’ll feel like I’m “done” but given that I still don’t know my dad’s family’s ancestral name or where they came from (other than the broad reference to Poland), it’s not happening any time soon. So, I’ll stop for now writing here because there are websites and research calling …. get out there and start yours today!!! If you need help, let me know. Giving back to others starting the journey is how I honor what Aunt Catherine began with me.
#genealogy #familytree #LineageJourneys #history #BurtonCollection #DPL