Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Family Stories

When I was very young, my parents took an interest in tracing our family tree. My mother started doing historical research, interviewed family members, wrote to distant relatives and was able to come up with fairly detailed genealogies for both sides of our family. As part of the research of the paternal side we visited small cemeteries deep in the hills of Muskingum and Guernsey counties. Believe it or not, I have fond memories of running and playing tag with my sisters in the graveyards amongst the tombstones on many beautiful, quiet, hot summer days, while our parents took careful notes of dates and names, and sometimes took rubbings from the headstones of our ancestors.
An interest in genealogy is a family trait that I inherited. I enjoy research in general - with ~20 years spent at the library I’ve done more than my share of looking for answers, and have often been told I’m good at it. Even my current job requires quite a bit of research. The historical anecdotes of family trees are fascinating to me. So I took on the responsibility of maintaining and updating the family tree. Thankfully, in this computer age there are boundless resources available. My first task was to computerize the research that my parents had done into a genealogy electronic database program so I could easily identify any gaps. Then I turned to online resources. I discovered links to family lines that my parents’ research would never have uncovered. I located long-lost family members, and I met strangers who we are actually related to. Currently, our family history is rather detailed and complex. The software program I use allows you to print your family “story” which I printed out and presented to my dad a couple of years ago. To see the work that had been started years ago by my mom combined with my new exploration – well, it was a gift he still treasures.

While on vacation this summer as we walked through a wooded path to the lake, I spotted an old forgotten family cemetery through the trees. Making our way off the path through the forest, we climbed over a portion of rusted wire fencing. It was a beautiful, quiet, hot summer day. We wandered over the graves and explored the tombstones, many broken and leaning on others, some so old and worn they could not be read. We called out to one other the names and dates of soldiers, infants, families – each lost in our own thoughts. Looking back on the experience, the genealogist in me hopes that some descendent has documented their stories. But my thoughts that day were taking me back to another cemetery, another family, another story…

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