When I first began writing about my life, genealogy didn’t figure into the picture. I’d been doing some serious research on my family’s history for some time, but it wasn’t until later that I saw how the two subjects fit together and provided an additional framework from which to view my own experiences. It was the show, ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ that sparked my genealogy obsession. The show was really an ancestry.com marketing project – each episode a short documentary that showed a celebrity’s experience tracing some branch of their family tree. Of course, on the show, each celebrity finds some amazing information with seemingly no more effort than typing a name and birth date into a website. They travel from city to city, or even from country to country, and have genealogy experts waiting for them at each point to tell them amazing secrets about their ancestors. That’s not what it’s like in real life. You can easily spend a lifetime trying to build stories around the names you can find in your family tree, especially if you come from a broken family or a family that doesn’t believe in airing its dirty laundry. But the show inspired me to start my own research, nonetheless.
I had also been writing a little bit about my life around the same time. At some point, it occurred to me that writing about my life could potentially save some random relative a few generations down the road from pounding their head on their desk trying to figure out what my life and my family was all about. I also began to think about the stories of my ancestors – their triumphs and tribulations – the tragedy and stoicism – the good luck and the bad luck – and how they may have influenced me. Many traits pass themselves down through the generations – some good, some horrible, and I started to see patterns emerging. The idea of weaving in stories of my ancestors into my memoir struck me as having some additional value, so that’s what I’ve done. I’ve made some amazing finds, and I’ve run into rock solid dead ends, but the research is fascinating. I’ll share a few of my genealogy stories shortly.