Family Ties

family tree

I was born and grew up 350 miles north of where I live now. After I got married we lived a few places and then settled here.

The weird thing is my parents were born and grew up here. Their families have been here since before the Civil War. I never really knew my extended family and so when I moved to this area it wasn’t for family reasons. We moved here as part of a church planting team.

It’s such a strange feeling to drive to Chick-Fil-A and pass my grandparent’s graves. I’m just a stone’s throw from my other set of grandparents and great-grandparents. I never knew any of them.

In my genealogy research I found that my great- grandfather lived in the same town I live in now. My great- uncle had a store in town. I feel so detached because this is just the place where I’ve lived as an adult yet there are really real ties to this place. This could be my hometown if my parent’s hadn’t moved.

My family owned land and started churches and raised their kids here just like I have and I didn’t even know it until recently.

Family connections are all around me waiting to be discovered. Let me tell you about one such connection.

I’ll tell you about individual threads, then I will weave them together for you.

My son had a high school Literature teacher that he really loved.

My son went to college in Mississippi and met a girl there who ended up marrying a Japanese classmate.

My son brought his Japanese classmate to spend the weekend with us. He was a super nice guy.

The girl who married the Japanese guy went to church with my son’s high school Literature teacher. He was the youth pastor of her church.

I ended up teaching with the high school Literature teacher, became friends and he became pastor of the church where the girl who ended up marrying the Japanese guy went.

So, for many, many years I knew of the girl, the Japanese guy and the church that my friend and co-teacher ended up pastoring.

Recently, I started attending the church that my friend and co-teacher pastors.

I met the parents of the girl who married the Japanese guy.

The mother of the girl who married the Japanese guy, her sister-in-law and I went out to lunch.

They began to talk about a class on genealogy that they were taking.

I shared that I was interested in genealogy, too and we began to share stories.

I shared about my great-grandfather who was taken as prisoner in the Battle of Atlanta to a prison camp in Ohio and after the war he walked all the way home.

The mother of the girl who married the Japanese guy was stunned. She had a relative with the same story.

We’re cousins.

I love telling that story. I think it’s so cool.

I walk around here in my town and wonder if any of the people I see are related to me. They really might be.

Are we related?

Peace,

Jill

Knowing Your Family Tree Can Enrich Your Life In 5 Surprising Ways

5 Surprising Ways (1)

About 30 years ago my older sister started researching our mother’s side of the family tree. Our mother had died young and we were left without much family history. My sister was in her 40’s and I was in my 20’s and being a busy, new mother I was not particularly interested. But I tromped around in graveyards and made copies in the archives with my sister and picked up a few things along the way.

My sister then died young as well. I inherited all her research and it sat in boxes in the closet for years. Then a couple of years ago, something happened, a switch was flipped and I pulled out my sister’s research and started going through it.

And the research has been going on since then. Although I didn’t really enjoy it when I was in my 20’s, I really enjoy it now! The search, the discoveries, it’s all so fun to me now.

What is so amazing to me now is how stinking easy it is! You can, right now, go to ancestry.com and begin your family tree. You don’t have to go to the archives, to courthouses, or to graveyards to get started. You don’t even have to know anything about how to do genealogical research. You can grab your coffee while still in your pjs and start your journey! They have so much information online now, it’s amazing!

So, this morning as I am thinking about my next exploration into my family tree, I was reflecting on how enriching it has been to me. So, I thought I’d pause and give you 5 reasons why you should start researching your family tree right now!

  1. Having a new hobby that can enrich the whole family is so fulfilling! Often our hobbies are so individual. We enjoy our hobbies and we’re lucky to have a few people to share our enjoyment with. However, researching your family tree can be enjoyed by the whole family. Having a hobby that provides such meaningful information and impacts each family member in such a positive way is so fulfilling!
  2.  It gives you a sense of being grounded and connected. There is something very assuring about knowing your family story. Knowing where your family came from, the struggles they went through, the decisions they made, all of that gives you a sense of origin and connectedness that is priceless.
  3. It helps you understand yourself better. Often you will find common threads running through your family. In my family, for example, I discovered that my people tended to be farmers, church planters and craftspeople. I am all of those, too, in varying degrees. My love of order comes from my Dutch ancestors and my love of spiritual, mystical things comes from my Irish people. Learning about my ancestors really does help me understand myself better.
  4. It gives you practical information that you can use. When you research the people in your family, you will learn details that may help you. You will learn about what illnesses and handicaps your family members struggled with and died from. It may alert you to potential health risks.
  5. Discovering your family’s roots and giving that foundation to your family is priceless! You will be the fount of all family history! It is so much fun to share the experience of discovery with your family . It was so great to be able to share with my nephew, when he was studying American history, that he was related to George Washington. It blew his mind and made history more exciting for him. It will be so fun to share our family history with my grandboys when they get older.Sharing family history is such an enriching and bonding activity. 

I think knowing your family history is a MUST for every grandparent. And, if like me, your history was not shared with you or it was lost, you have no excuse! Get on ancestry.com or any family research site and start your journey today.

If you need a little inspiration, watch episodes of “Who Do You Think You Are?” or “Finding Your Roots.” Those shows get you excited about family tree research!

Have fun!

Peace,

Jill