Family connections

blogOld photoIf you can believe all the ads on TV and the internet, more and more folks are wondering just where they came from.

Those ads inform you where you can send your DNA to have it analyzed and receive a report indicating what part of the world you descended from. I can understand why that information would be intriguing if you don’t know much about your family history.

For some reason, I’ve always been fascinated about knowing my ancestry. Shortly after Papa and I married, we purchased a family tree print which we filled out as best as we could with the limited information we had. We framed it and it has graced our living room wall for all of our married life.

Since both of our sets of grandparents passed away either when we were young or before we were even born, our knowledge of great-grandparents and further back in the family lines was very limited.

My father did possess a treasure trove of family lineage on both sides of his family and he passed that information to my sisters and me. But pertaining to my mother’s lineage, we had very little to go on beyond our grandparents.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been even more determined to find out more family genealogy but am limited with time to do so. It’s quite a task, even if you join one of the online genealogy sites. There’s a lot of misinformation, dates in error, etc. that can lead you down the wrong path and I have felt frustration over some of that.

Enter my cousin. I have one living first cousin left; all the others are deceased. My cousin’s father and my father were brothers and our families were close when I was growing up. Recently, cousin and I have had more opportunities to see one another and talk about family remembrances. And he just so happens to have done a lot of research on our fathers’ family.

A couple of months ago, my cousin came for a visit and brought along his three-ring binder full of his research, which is more extensive that what I have. He showed me how he had collected all of the information and formatted it into a binder, not just on our shared family history but on this mother’s lineage as well.

I was impressed and expressed that to him. We shared stories and many remembrances of family members long gone. Hearing my cousin’s stories – many of which I never had heard – made me even more determined to seek out more of my family history (and my husband’s as well), get it put down in writing, and prepare a similar notebook to be passed down to my children if they are interested.

But time. Or the lack of it. That is my problem. It’s been a busy season of life for us here at Mama’s Empty Nest even though I basically am retired from working outside the home and Papa is semi-retired, only working at a part-time job. Taking care of our granddaughter while daughter works takes up a good bit of my time. And there are always church activities and other commitments that also claim my free hours as well as writing this blog.

Recently, my cousin visited me again. I never imagined he would arrive with a complete surprise in his hands. He prepared a family history binder for me as a gift. Not only did he include all of his research and photographs from our shared family lineage, but he had done significant exploration into my mother’s (his aunt by marriage) family.

What an amazing gift! My cousin gleaned through ancient census reports, vital life certificates, and other information to complete my mother’s family tree. Then he printed all of his collected findings, formatted the family lineage, and placed it all in sections by family name in a three-ring binder.

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” ~ Thornton Wilder

To say I am thankful for what he did is an understatement. His gift touched my heart in so many ways. I’m beyond grateful for my cousin, for the ways we have felt connected in our family ties, for the stories he has shared, for the vast amount of time he spent compiling all of the information he acquired.

My cousin gave me a treasure. A treasure I can pass on to my children in hopes they can pass it on to my grandchildren. A treasure of family connection. The past with the present. And into the future.

Just one more thing to be grateful for in my 30 Days of Thanks Giving.

 “Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.” ~ Henry Van Dyke


16 responses

  1. I know researching ones Ancestry is loved by many, and fun rather than a task. But I just cannot get into it in any serious way….. maybe I am wrong as there is a good deal that I don’t know about the family past but I have that underlying feeling saying ‘let it be’


    • Oh, I can understand letting it be too. Who knows what one may find in the family tree? 😉 I think we Americans are fascinated by our ancestry because we all have such different family origins. Most of my ancestors came from England and Germany and were early settlers here in America.


  2. Do it, you will be amazed. Sara has done this for years and has gone back pretty far. Ancestry has or used to have 2 free weeks every 6 months where you can go on their website and research for free. So cool!


    • I used that free trial thing already. That sure helped. But my cousin’s version is pretty accurate and detailed and I’m so happy to have it. He even included dates when my family (both sides) came to the US and first came to our county.


  3. I spent an inordinate amount of time a few years ago (after my mother’s death) delving into my family history. It was fascinating (lots of things I didn’t know; lots of “secrets” uncovered). Its very easy to get caught up in it. but, as you mentioned, you also spent a lot of time going following paths that lead nowhere, or provide inaccurate information. Preparing for my husband’s retirement and then moving distracted me for a couple of years, but I’m keen to get back at it. My son and DIL gave me a DNA test for Christmas last year and while there were no “surprises” there (re: where our families originated), I’m eager to put everything I discovered in order and write my family’s narrative (to go with the photos I have). It’s fascinating, but very time-consuming; you’re lucky your cousin did so much work and was so generous in sharing it.


    • Family history is fascinating, isn’t it? And like you said full of surprises sometimes as well. I’m so very happy to have my cousin’s research plus he found information on my mother’s side that I had been at dead ends with. I have a lot of old photos too and this is a lovely addition to that photo album I put together this past summer.


  4. What an AMAZING gift! My cousin allowed me to copy our family genealogy she had been given years ago. It’s also in a binder, and I add to it whenever I learn of a birth, marriage, divorce, death….
    It’s a wonderful thing to have.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is! I still haven’t found the time to actually sit down for a longer period of time and read entirely through it. But it will make a great winter time read! And then I’m going to work more on my husband’s side of the family. 🙂


  5. That is a wonderful gift. I am so excited for you having your own copy of this fabulous family history. Chris has done a bit of work on ours and you are right about the misinformation and incorrect dates, etc. I guess it is just one of those things you have to deal with.


    • That’s why I was so happy to get my cousin’s copy. He thoroughly researched actual records, not just online. Much of the info I found on one genealogy site had conflicting dates but I think that’s because people entered the info themselves and probably a lot are typos.


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