About two years ago I began working on restoring the old family pictures, and I wondered about the people, and the times they lived in etc. We knew a tiny bit about my mom's side of the family and practically nothing about my dads. Then last Christmas, I decided I would see if I could research my family tree. I had no clue as to how to begin, and I soon hit a brick wall and gave up.
Then, "Who Do You Think You Are" aired on TV.
Produced by Lisa Kudrow, the show featured real life family searches by celebrities. Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Susan Sarandon, Brooke Shields and Spike Lee were all favorites of mine and so I watched. It was amazing and lit a fire under me to try again. This time I was successful.
It's kind of daunting to start a search like this because you never know what you'll find, and I found some doozies, but I had to get started because my mom is the oldest remaining person on her family side and when she goes, all that she knew would have gone with her.
Everyone wants to find someone famous in their family tree, or some amazing incredibly fantastic story to tell about an ancestor and I was no exception. However I didn't think I would get far in my search or that there would be anything notable. I was wrong.
My mom's side of the family is amazing. My great great grandfather fought in the civil war, as did his father. Then because the genealogical community is so connected I found his line all the way back to before 1776. On my grandmother's side, her family is a direct line from Stukely Westcott who came to the new world and established Rhode Island and the first Baptist church. Go figure.
As neat as that information was, it didn't compare to the excitement I felt when I tracked down my great grandmother's brothers who had disappeared from the family. One divorced his wife and married a black woman, the other was a true cad. He was a successful rancher who divorced his wife, and left his six children, and was shot and killed in 1924 by his second wife while visiting a whore house. The court records from his case are riveting. It was a huge scandal....and his wife (who shot him) was found not guilty.
I've also found out some not so proud information, including being related to Benedict Arnold...yes that one, a great grandmother on my father's side who was in the KKK, and two first cousins who married each other (thank god my family isn't from their line)
So there's good and bad and a whole lot of inbetween when you start searching your family tree. If you haven't looked into yours, I would encourage you to do so. It's an amazing journey.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
9:44 AM Geoff