Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Moment I Knew

In The Moment You Knew on The Armchair Genealogist blog, Lynn Palermo describes how she knew that she needed to make her family a priority, and that led to pursuing her genealogy and family history.  She challenged other geneabloggers to write about their "Moment You Knew."

For me, the "Moment I Knew" that I wanted to pursue my genealogy and family history was a fairly long process of dabbling occasionally, thinking that I should pursue genealogy research, and that I should connect with my extended family.  I knew who my father's siblings were, but since my mother and her parents were only children, I had no idea if there were relatives on her side. 

The catalysts for me were, in order:

1)  Taking a family vacation trip to New England in 1982 to visit friends and my aunts, uncles and cousins.  Several aunts,  my uncle and several cousins had visited us from 1968 to 1982 on their vacations, but I had not met many cousins.  During this trip, I sat with my uncle Ed Seaver for about an hour with a cassette tape recorder and asked him questions about his life, parents and the relatives.  This was great fun, and I wanted to do more of it.

2)  My father died in May 1983, and I realized that I had never really talked to him about his life in a meaningful way.  I didn't want that to happen again.

3)  During the 1980s, I was busy with life - I had a stay-at-home wife and two growing daughters, and family life was important.  I was stressed at work by technical and management issues, and needed an outside interest to intellectually stimulate and interest me. 

4)  I bought my first IBM PC in 1983, and upgraded it eventually to add a hard drive and a modem, and had word processing software. I had this computer until 1994.

5)  I finally read Alex Haley's book, Roots in about 1986.  The stories were so interesting that I decided that doing genealogy research might be the intellectual challenge I was yearning for.

In early 1988, I looked for (in my collected papers) and found the Seaver genealogy report that my Aunt Marion had compiled when she was a school teacher in Ashburnham back in the 1950s.  It was basically copied from Heywood's The History of Westminster, Massachusetts book, but I didn't know that at the time. 

I also found some family pictures in my mother's home, and wrote the aunts, uncles and cousins asking for their help by sharing information and photographs.  I sent photocopies of several pictures to them and asked them to identify persons in the pictures, and sent family group sheets asking for additional information.  The aunts and uncle were ecstatic that I was doing this, and were very encouraging.

That set me off big time, and I visited the Chula Vista Library and the San Diego downtown library to look at their genealogy collections, and then quickly discovered the San Diego Family History Center.  Before long, I was mining the books and microfiches (especially the IGI) at the FHC, and started ordering microfilms from the FHL in Salt Lake City.  It wasn't long before I had a family tree in PAF 2.0 based on all of the collected information (mainly from on photocopies of published books and periodicals, and slick microfilm copies).  For Christmas 1988, I sent an 8-page Seaver-Richmond Family Journal to my brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins, featuring genealogy data and family stories. 

I went back to New England in 1990 with my brother, Scott, to share in the celebration of Uncle Ed Seaver's 50th wedding anniversary in Leominster.  Most of the living aunts, uncles and cousins were there, and I met many of the cousins for the first time.  I spoke to the group about my research, noting that I thought that I had proved the ancestral connection to Peregrine White of the Mayflower, and there were other Mayflower connections too.  They were supportive.  The Seaver-Richmond Family Journal has continued as a yearly publication, now 16 pages.

From there until today I did a lot more research, found a genealogy community on Prodigy in 1992, joined CVGS and SDGS by 1994.  The family tree got bigger and bigger.  Still to come was speaking, the Internet, helping others, attending conferences and seminars, working for my local societies, writing and teaching. and the geneablogger community. 

Updated 4 p.m.:  Edited several paragraphs to be sensible and grammatically correct. 


Martin said...

As a librarian/genealogist, I can't tell you how many people start because of the death of a parent and the disconnect that they "knew nothing of their life or that side of the family." I've heard it a million times. What I find fascinating are the young people like myself who started when all my grandparents were still alive.

Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

Thank you for your comment, that should remind each of us to share our stories, not just have them on our computers and in our papers... stories of our ancestors, and stories about us (the older generations)... Well stated! Thanks, Randy, for your story! ;-)