(This is the first entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge. I found out about it late, so playing catch-up!)
In thinking about this topic, I thought I’d share about a special treasure in my family that first sparked my interest in genealogy. My grandmother enjoyed telling stories about her family, but the most exciting thing was a huge, comb-bound tome about the family of her mother-in-law. Well, technically her grandmother-in-law, as it was the story of my great-great-grandmother’s parents and siblings and all their descendants — including me!
(That’s her in the image above, Anna Ingwersen Meints, along with her husband and my great-great-grandfather Ernst Meints on their 50th wedding anniversary)
Seeing my name and my sister’s name listed in this enormous book, along with hundreds of names of people I’d never met or even heard of, but were my cousins just the same, was a bit overwhelming. I had a sudden need to understand these people. To know who they were and what their stories were. To see life through their eyes. To learn what they experienced and how it changed them.
I read that book from cover to cover multiple times. I memorized names, and could spout relationships at the drop of a hat (there was an awesome chart in the back that solved the riddle of “X cousin X-times removed” once and for all for me) and traced my people from Germany to the US and all the various states where they lived.
(Even now, 30 years later, I drive through Gillette, Wyoming and think of my great-great-grandmother’s sister, Katherine, who settled there. #genealogynerd)
You may not have an “Ingwersen Book” like I did. You may not have a grandma who loved to tell family stories and legends. You may not even know who your grandpa is.
But you can discover all of the above. You can find your family and understand what made them (and you!) the way they were. With a bit of luck and some serious researching, the answers are waiting to be found.