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Favorite family history moments

This morning, my 10-year-old caught me indexing a page from the 1910 Pennsylvania census. He said, "dad, what does 'single' mean?" (He was referring to the marital status portion of the record.) Stunned that someone in my immediate family would ask me something genealogy-related, I had to quickly come up with a great answer that would keep his attention.

I got to explain what a census record is, and then we looked up my grandpa (his great-grandfather) in the 1930 census. With his entry in Legacy on my left monitor, and the 1930 census record on my right monitor (oh how I love having two 28" wide-screen monitors side-by-side) I tried to get my son excited about what he was seeing. He replied, "I thought all the people in these records were dead." Grandpa just turned 87.

Before I knew it, it was time for my son to leave for school.

1994-08-0006 This experience with my son reminded me of a family history moment I had with my own great-grandmother 15 years ago. "Great-Grandma Larsen" was the best grandma a boy could have. Although she had dozens and dozens of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews, I knew she loved me. She would always kiss me on the lips and she never forgot my birthday.

At our family reunion in Oregon in 1994, she helped me put together a picture pedigree chart of her ancestors (shown on the right). I wasn't completely new to genealogy - I had just completed the first year of my genealogy degree - but this was genealogy at its finest. She told me stories of her great-grandparents as we carefully placed each photo in its place on the pedigree chart.

I get to talk with thousands of genealogists throughout the world every month, and while I love talking genealogy with all of you, there's nothing that beats talking genealogy with my own, close family members.

What about you? I'd love to hear of your "genealogy moments" in the comments below.


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Genealogy has become a wonderful gift that my eight year old granddaughter Elizabeth and I share. It all started this winter when my daughter called to ask my help with Elizabeth’s Social Studies project on immigration. Since then, my genealogy files have become a vehicle for Elizabeth’s understand of history through our family’s history. Elizabeth prepared a Power Point presentation on our family’s immigration -- first from Switzerland to Germany and then from Germany to America. I could hear the pride and excitement in her voice as I listened to the recorded narration. Later this winter, we reviewed Civil War letters of Elizabeth’s great-great-great grandfather and we journeyed to Gettysburg to visit the battlefield on which he fought. This time her project was to pretend to be a Civil War soldier and write a letter home. Elizabeth continues to show an active interest in genealogy --- she wants to learn how to do research and is concerned what will happen to my research. I asked her if she would like to continue and she responded YES. So a new genealogist is born!

When my daughter who is now 16 and loves genealogy was about five, she saw me working on the family tree. She looked at and asked how it worked and where she was. I showed and a big smile came across her face. A few minutes later I heard her talking to my mother in the room..."Grandma, you are related to me!!" Mom answered yes she was and then I heard my daughter say "Mommy can prove it too...she put you in the family tree". The sound of laughter from my family could be heard all over the house.

I over heard my 29 year old talking to my sister on the phone. He said, I have no clue what dad does. I see him with all the paper, notebooks, file box after box he sees in the other room, yet he told her it was just a big blur to him. I guess it is time to show him our genealogy/family history that I had blured him for over 25+ years of research.

My grandmother was always telling me stories about her ancesters and their crossing the plains to Oregon.

Being a young teen I was not really interested and I regret not giving her more attention and asking questions.

Grandma kept a detailed daily calendar with temperature and weather conditions plus a notebook that listed all the family members birth/death/marriage etc info.

My Mother later gave them to me and I was able to use the information as a basis for creating my original family tree.

To those of you out there with living parents and grandparents, talk to them, record their family stories and also go through all those old family photos and record the names of the people on the back side with dates and locations.

I am happy that one daughter is starting to become interested in her family history and hope that the our other children and grandchildren follow suite.

My son...now 42...and I take a "guys' getaway" each summer. About 7-8 years ago, knowing of (but not sharing) my interest in genealogy, he suggested we drive to Salt Lake City so I could spend several days doing research in the Family History Library. My wife discouraged him, saying he'd be bored out of his mind, and insisting he take along plenty of reading material.

We went. I dug deeply into the virtually-endless goodies; he occasionally glanced over my shoulder (with apparent disinterest). To my amazement, on the third day, he caught an error! By our fifth and final day, I was assisting HIM, as he relieved my tiring old eyes of the burden of decyphering blurred film images and old handwriting. A spark had been unexpectedly kindled -- yes, there is hope for our younger generations in carrying on our work after all!

Unfortunately, all of my grandparents had died long before I was born, and my parents never talked about their parents. My parents also died when I was relatively young, so I had very little information about my ancestors. To top it off, I wasn't very interested.

About four years ago my then 42 year old daughter asked me some questions about my ancestors. Her mother-in-law's family has some avid genealogists, and my daughter's questions got both of us going on Legacy.

Yesterday, my research led me to a familiar looking 1905 Wisconsin state census page. My granduncle was on the page, because he was the county clerk and signed every page. A few years ago, I had recorded the first two names on the page, because two of my aunts married into their family. I was back now because one of the men had married a woman from the second family on the page and the other had married into the third family. My granduncle is related to them by at least two different marriages. In 1905, none of them were related, but now, four families are related. The deeper I dig, the more I think I'm related to almost everyone in Racine County, Wisconsin.

It has been a thrilling experience to find more and more relatives and unravel their stories.

The TV series, Roots, sparked an interest but I never followed through. My mother wanted to write things down but she was too ill and it never was started. Seven years later, when my father suddenly passsed, I realized I knew nothing about my family history. I started to dig into my family's past then. It was almost too late. Thanks to my cousins, aunts and uncles I have been able to trace back a few generations and I am grateful to have this information and some photos, too. One of my cousins here in the US had an old photo of her father when he was three and his parents and an unidentified man. She also had the address of our fathers' family in Austria. She graciously gave me a copy of the 1916 photo to keep and cherish. I immediately scanned it into my computer and printed a few copies! I contacted Uncle Willy by mail and he gladly shared what he knew about his family. In 1998, I had the opportunity to meet my father's youngest brother and his family in Austria! It was amazing! Of course, I brought genealogy printouts to share. He happened to see a copy of the photograph and with tears running down his cheeks he asked me about it. He recognized his parents in the photo. Uncle Willy was then 76 and he said he had never seen this picture before. His wife agreed. They were able to identify the man no one in the US knew but who had a strong family resemblance. My uncle identified the man, it was his mother's brother, Georg. I was able to identify the boy as my cousin's father, his older brother, Adolph. I gave my uncle a few copies of the photo to share with his family. Uncle Willy passed away the following March 31st. I am delighted that I could share this moment with my uncle... it was amazing!

I was always interested in the birth and growth of our nation (the United States). As a young person I continually had questions about where I came from, which of my ancestors traveled west in a covered wagon, and which ones were in the wars. As an adult I began researching my family history in earnest. The research was difficult at some points but with the invention of the internet and digitized records I have been able to gather hundreds of documents related to my family history.

In 2000 our daughter was born. We received her for adoption at 7 weeks old. As she has grown there have been times when she has asked where she came from. This spurred me on to research her birth family history. The first surprising thing I found in her family background was that she was actually related to me through my mother's family, way back in the mid 1700's! I found pictures of her birth ancestors online, and was able to trace their migration to the present location.

As I continued her birth family research I found that one of her ancestors was put on the Orphan Train in NY and sent to an adoptive home in the mid-west (along with a twin brother whom he was separated from during his childhood). Her birth family history was really getting exciting.

The most recent thing I discovered was that one of her ancestors came to America on the Mayflower. Wow, lots of great family history. She hasn't asked recently about her birth family, but I know when she does I will be ready. I will share our history with her, but I'm also making a nice family history notebook that will show her what her birth family roots are. I know she will be excited.

With red-haired pigtails and freakles, six-year-old Barbie stood up while the first graders were learning about the Pilgrims and said, "ALL my ancestors came over on the Mayflower!" Little Linda Page thought about it while walking home from George Ellery Hale Elememtary in Pasadena, CA. By time she got home she was crying full-force. Her mother asked what happened and Linda Page explained. "Well, you don't have to worry, we have a big book full of all your ancestors who were farmers and lawyers and doctors.", her mother said. That satified the first grader. Eight years later, while cleaning out the linen closet in Phoenix, Linda found the 900-page genealogy book, "The Carpenter Memorial of Rehoboth" as it is commonly called. She looked at Katheryn Carpenter's will in Old English, and thought how boring! She put it back in the closet. As a bride, in Las Vegas, NV, she decided to learn about her new husband's family and more of her father's family. They didn't know where they came from in England. She asked for the "Memorial" to record her mother's side. Little did she know that she was on a life-long quest of learning about family, history, and geography. She has met cousins in England and Scotland, and took her husband to the Lutheran church in Epstein, Germany where his fourth Great-Grand Uncle Bartle was baptized. She has been able to make an historical, pictorial CD for her 90-year-old aunt (her father's sister)where the Hillary's came from (Yorkshire lead miners), and how and why they came to the States. Genealogy is great way to pull a family together. Thank you, Barbie, where-ever you are!!!

I didn't know you could earn a degree is genealogy at the university level.

I would like to know more about the Degree in Genealogy if at all possible. Thanking you in anticipation.

For more information about the BA in Family History, please see http://history.byu.edu/Family/BAfh.dhtml. Still, even with the degree, nothing can replace what you learn with the actual hands-on experience.

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