I have been researching my family for almost 20 years. Over that time a lot of people have asked me, “Why genealogy? What do you get out of it?” There are many reasons to search. For me, it began as curiosity… I began wondering where did I come from, how did my ancestors love, what did they do, how did they get here – to this time and place. And its a way to connect the present with the past.
For others, they may begin searching for medical reasons. What diseases or illnesses run in the family? How come I’m 6 foot tall and my dad isn’t?
Some search just for the thrill of the hunt. When it comes to puzzles, nothing can match the complexity and fun of genealogy. Just think about a jigsaw puzzle that has an almost infinite number of pieces – some of them that don’t fit and some of them missing. Nothing can match the satisfaction I get from finding one of those lost pieces of the puzzle and putting it into place. These are puzzle pieces that lead to long-lost cousins and far-off places.
Still others desire to leave a lasting legacy. Some people approach middle age or have a traumatic event at any age that prompts them to think about their mortality. “If I never meet my grandchildren, what will they know about me? What will they know about my parents? How will we be remembered?” Those of us who are fortunate enough to have ancestors in this category are indeed lucky. If you do nothing else with your family history, you should write down or record your life experiences in your own words in any way that you see fit.
Another reason to research is the emotional satisfaction gained through your efforts. The latest discovery can be touching and immensely satisfying. This is the moment that you look at your great grandfather’s signature on your grandparent’s marriage license; put your hand on the baptismal font where your oldest known ancestor was baptized; stand on the ground where your great grandfather from the old country is buried – knowing that your grandmother stood on this spot in front of an open grave grieving her loss. These moments are thrilling, goose-bump producing moments of a life time when you can almost reach across time and touch a person who you finally understand and know. These are moments you must not miss!
Lots of people get involved when they volunteer at their local genealogical or historical society. What a wonderful place to meet nice people who are willing to help you discover your roots. These groups are responsible for saving crumbling records all over the world and for making the information available to everybody. People who work in these places are almost always unpaid and give their time and effort on behalf of people like you and me every single day – people they have never even met. This is important work and you can get the satisfaction of helping other people by volunteering yourself. It is easy. Pick up the phone and call.
Whatever your reasons, give genealogy a try. It is a stimulating hobby that will put you in touch with yourself and with a lot of nice people who are ready and willing to help.