My granddaughter often jokes about my advanced age. “Did they have electricity when you were a little boy?” “Were you frightened by the dinosaurs?”
Once in a while I try to tell her about what it was like when I was her age, which by the way, is not so antiquated as she might think. We even had TV, albeit 3 channels with rabbit ears.
I was her age once and surrounded by adults who attempted to fill me in on their past, but just like her, I wasn’t the least bit interested in those ramblings about Aunt So and So and Uncle What’s His Name.
None of that genealogy stuff really meant anything to me until about a year ago. Come to think of it, I don’t have a clue as to what triggered my interest. Suddenly, I wanted to know more about those people from my past and began to try to piece together what little I remembered about them and the stories they shared.
There were clues in the attic. Old family photos and even some old love letters written by my grandparents.
So, I Googled their names. Nothing on Mable or Charlie Polk, my grandparents. And then, one of those bothersome ads popped up telling me that I could trace my roots and discover my past. Of course, it was going to cost me. So I took the plunge and went to work at ancestry.com.
Soon I found documents revealing boatloads of info about my past. Death certificates, birth records, census records, travel manifests, military records, newspaper articles….and a nifty tool for helping me to construct my family tree. As a side note, I have now found 6,204 family members. I’ve traced them back to the Vikings and the Huns. That explains Uncle Willard.
Seriously, let me show you what can be learned from one boring document.
My grandmother, Mable Polk, had a bunch of sisters and a brother. I recalled very little about her siblings. Her sister, Pearl, did snuff. Her brother, Walter, introduced me to my first foot-long hotdog in Winchester. Her sister, Ella, lived in Baltimore where we occasionally visited which is where I discovered tamales sold by a street vendor.
You see, it’s little memories like that upon which you can build your research. So, my grandmother, the youngest, was born in 1897. Luckily, there was a census conducted in 1900.
Oh, and by the way, I don’t expect that my family info will be interesting to you. My intent here is to show you what can be dug up (pardon the expression) about YOUR family.
First thing I notice is that Ella is missing. Further research indicates that by 1900 she was already married and living elsewhere. Second, Moses Shown was 9 years older than his wife, Mary. There’s 3-year-old Mable at the bottom of the list. Oh, yeah. Forgot about Aunt Less and Aunt Carrie. Vaguely recall them from my childhood, but there they are and now there is more substance to my faint recall.
Some other gems uncovered in that census: Moses was the only one in that family who couldn’t read or write and they all spoke English. What’s that? Why would the census be concerned with Americans speaking English? Thought that was just an issue for now. We really are a nation of immigrants.
All the aforementioned folks can be found IN THE VALLEY OF HOPE.
I’ll bet there are some really interesting people in your past. Why don’t you enrich your life’s experience by paying them a visit as a time traveler? Who knows, you might become so inspired by your discoveries that you’ll write a book.