Saturday, September 17, 2016

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun -- What Started You Actively Researching Your Family History?

Calling all Genea-Musings Fans: 

 It's Saturday Night again - 
time for some more Genealogy Fun!!

Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission Impossible music, please!):

What was the "trigger," that started you actively researching your family history and genealogy?

2)  Tell us about it in a comment on this blog post, in a blog post of your own, or in a Facebook post.

My thanks to Jacquie Schattner for providing this challenge via email.

Here's mine:  

I really think this was a 30 year process for me to get started.

1958:  I met my grandmother, Alma Bessie (Richmond) Seaver, my aunt and uncle, and a cousin for the first time.  My father came to San Diego from Massachusetts in 1940, so I grew up without knowing my paternal grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  My mother had no siblings, nor did my maternal grandparents, so these were the first close family I had ever met.  Our family had exchanged Christmas cards and gifts with my father's family for years, but nobody visited anyone until the summer of 1958 when my grandmother, my aunt and uncle - Walter and Evelyn (Seaver) Wood (Evelyn was my father's sister), and the Wood's granddaughter, Diana, drove across the country to visit us (and the other California relatives) and sightsee.  

1966:  I went to Boston for work, and arranged to stay with my Aunt Geraldine in Newton.  She took me out to Leominster and I met the whole Seaver family who had gathered to celebrate my cousin Peter's return from Viet Nam.  It was a great party, and now I had met most of my aunts and uncles and many cousins.  I also heard stories about my father for the first time.  I got to see the house my father grew up in at 290 Central Street in Leominster.

1968-1982:  My father's siblings started visiting us in San Diego.  Ed and Janet (my father's brother) came, cousin Joan came and stayed with my folks for awhile, cousins Diana and Beth came again on summer break, Aunt Gerry and her husband Jim Remley came, Aunt Marion came, Aunt Ruth and her husband Bowers came.  With every visit, I learned more about the Seaver family.  Linda and I really enjoyed meeting these folks and we exchanged cards and letters on the holidays.  My Aunt Marion had compiled a genealogy report on the Seaver line back in the 1950s when she was a schoolteacher, and gave it to me.  I filed it away.

1982:  Linda and I, with our two daughters now aged 6 and 8, decided on a vacation trip to New England to visit friends in Marblehead, to visit Ed and Janet in Leominster, to visit to Ruth and Bowers in Leominster, and to visit Gerry and Jim in Maine.  I had a cassette tape recorder with me, and made an audio tape with Uncle Ed one day about his life and the Seaver family.  Ed and Janet took us to Salem, N.H. to visit the Soule cousins at their lake cabin.  Gerry and Jim had a cabin on Lake Cobbosecontee and we spent a week in the woods - Jim took us boating and fishing and we swam in the lake.  We had a wonderful time the whole three weeks we were gone.  

1983:  My father and mother had hoped to go to New England to visit the family in the summer of 1982, but they were both diagnosed with cancer and started treatment.  Ed and Janet, and Gerry and Jim, visited.  My dad died in May 1983, and I really regretted not talking more to him about his life and family stories.  

1983-1988:  Life went on, I was working hard and traveling a lot, the girls were playing softball, and I was immersed in my hobby of DXing (listening to the radio for distant stations).  I had become a radio wave propagation expert over the years.   I didn't think about family history a lot, but I learned to use my IBM PC.

1988:  I finally read Roots, and then watched the TV series in reruns, and was entranced.  I did research and analysis for my job, and I was bored with my current hobby, so I thought "Why don't I do some genealogy research?  It can't be that hard, and it shouldn't take long."  

I gathered what I knew, found Aunt Marion's report, recalled some of the stories I had heard from the aunts and uncles (especially that "Grandma Seaver was descended from Peregrine White of the Mayflower"), and contacted the aunts, uncles and cousins to tell them I was starting and asked them to provide information about their families - names, dates, places, etc.  By this time, Aunt Gerry was the expert on who was who in the family.  She made three cassette tapes about her life and family memories (having organized her thoughts over several months) and sent them to me in the mail.  I painstakingly transcribed them.  I started a "Seaver-Richmond Family Newsletter" in 1988 (I started with 6 pages, it eventually became 16 pages) and sent it for Christmas for the next 25 years to all of the Seaver relatives.  I included family news, family photographs, and information about our Seaver and Richmond ancestors.  

1990:  This was Ed and Janet's 50th wedding anniversary year, and I, with my brother Scott, attended the event in Leominster in early September.  This was probably the last "big" meeting of the Seaver family, as the aunts and uncles had spread to Arizona and Florida, but many of my cousins were still in New England.  The party was in Sterling, the church service was in Leominster.  I tried to summarize the research to date at the after-party in the hotel, but I'm not sure that everyone cared.  Scott and I were invited to Salem to stay with Diana's family, and we had a lot of fun meeting and sharing our lives there.  Scott and I also took a research trip down to Putnam, Connecticut where the Richmonds were from, and we met a Richmond cousin and saw the family farm (which had been sold recently).  

Starting in 1988, I went to the San Diego Family History Center every Saturday, and to the San Diego and Chula Vista Public Libraries, to search for information in books and periodicals.  I soon graduated to microfilms at the FHC!  I obtained Personal Ancestral File, entered all of my data and the new data as it came in.  I joined Prodigy network on the computer in 1992 and really enjoyed their boards, making friends and finding cousins.  

Linda and I went to New England to visit family without our girls in 1991, 1994, 1995 and 1997 and I did research at NEHGS, RIHS and smaller libraries,  and we visited more ancestral towns and homes and cemeteries, in addition to seeing the families still there.  We also visited Aunt Marion in South Carolina and Aunt Gerry and Aunt Ruth in Florida in other years.  

Then the Internet came along, Family Tree Maker,, RootsMagic, and blogging.  I started speaking and teaching in 1996 and haven't stopped since then.  I've never stopped learning.

So it was a journey of 30 years or more to get to 1988 to start the research, and it's been another journey of 28 years to get from the start of my research to the present family tree and family history.  I have really enjoyed the ride, and look forward to new genealogy finds and experiences every day!


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Copyright (c) 2016, Randall J. Seaver

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Janice Harshbarger said...

It takes all kinds, so here's my story. In 2006, I was looking for a project I could complete in about six weekends. I asked my husband if I could use a Family Tree Maker program he'd been given for Christmas. He had no intention of using it, so he was OK with my getting started. And from there the story grows and grows. Over 10 years later, I'm still making exciting finds, with of course different software.

My most exciting finds have been people I grew up reading about, like Miles Standish and Roger Williams, and learning that we have gateway ancestors to royalty. Thrilling stuff for a history nut!

Unknown said...

You know what started my genealogy interest? The Sims 2... lol. I played it many, many years ago and the family tree aspect of it fascinated me.

Edward Black said...

I came through the back door. My Dad and older brother were experienced amateur photographers and I followed in their footsteps. My Mother's first cousin was a professional genealogist and hired me to take photos of gravestones, houses, copy old portaits, artifacts, etc. Then in 1962 she gave me a two post binder filled with blank family group sheets and said I had an immigrant ancestor (not one of hers) of whom no one had done a descendancy. I'm now 7000+ family members. And I had to branch out and work on all my lines. I topped it off by merging one of the lines ... I married my sixth cousin.

Edward Black said...

I came through the back door. My Dad and older brother were experienced amateur photographers and I followed in their footsteps. My Mother's first cousin was a professional genealogist and hired me to take photos of gravestones, houses, copy old portaits, artifacts, etc. Then in 1962 she gave me a two post binder filled with blank family group sheets and said I had an immigrant ancestor (not one of hers) of whom no one had done a descendancy. I'm now 7000+ family members. And I had to branch out and work on all my lines. I topped it off by merging one of the lines ... I married my sixth cousin.

Lisa S. Gorrell said...

It was the birth of my daughters that got me thinking about the future and the past and how I was the connector. I had always paid attention to who my aunts, uncles, and cousins were, so it was natural to get into genealogy. Wished I had started when I was 13 and stayed with my grandmother's sister. Oh the stories those two told at the dinner table every night. It also helped that I had a friend who made a yearly week-long trip to the Family History Library. Finding my grandfather the first time in the 1920 census really hooked me and I began taking trips to the FHL, too.

Wendy Callahan said...

As an avid player of Sims 2 and, now, Sims 3, I wish I could give Melissa's answer! LOL

But for me, it started with my parents' divorce in 1979 and a leather wallet full of family information.

Unknown said...

I started after watching Roots on TV back in 1977. Pulled out some notebook paper and made my first pedigree chart. It did not go far, just back to some of my great grandparents. A couple years later my aunt sent me some pages of my dad's family someone had put together. Added more when I got married. At some point I placed what I had on Brothers Keeper, don't remember anything about it. The ball really got going in 1997 when I got access to the web. Did a search (no Google then) for some of the family names, found some boards and I was off. Started using Broderbund's early FTM and now here I am, 4000 records later. P.S. Located a cousin who inherited work his aunt had done. Surprise, surprise, it was the original work that my aunt had sent me years earlier. Different aunts, same extended family.

Shirley Ann Rankin said...

My grandmother was born in Missouri and growing up I heard many of her stories about family members I never met. I wanted to research my family history, but I didn't know how to get started. The main problem was that the records in Missouri weren't accessible. So I got a late start, abt. 1998.

My dad went to visit my grandmother and he told her about what I was doing. My grandmother gave my dad a book to use in my research. The book was "Maryland Catholics on the Frontier" by Timothy O'Rourke. The book was over-sized and about 1100 pages, so I spent months going through all the genealogies.

Later I returned to book to my grandmother, and spent a day talking about the family and she shared some stories and answered all my questions. She passed away about 4 years later at the age of 93.

GeneGinny said...

My grandmother was helping a cousin write a book on the Israel Boone Family in the early 1960s. We lived in State College, PA, and they wanted some information on the Boones in Pennsylvania, so I spent a bunch of weekends during my junior year in high school (spring 1965) researching in the Penn State University library. My grandmother and cousin, Alice Boone, were thrilled with the information I sent them.
With my appetite whetted, I tried to get information out of my father to research his family. He was zero help. Did not even know his mother's maiden name or where his parents were born....and he really didn't want to know. While my mother was happy to research her family with me, she didn't want to know anything about Dad's family. Since I've never met any of them, it's been a challenge.
After marrying my husband in 1976, I got interested in tracing his Swedish family history, which actually turned out to be mostly Finnish. His mother never really appreciated learning that she hadn't married a fellow Swede.

Janice M. Sellers said...

I actually started before Roots, back when I was just 13 years old. I was lucky to start that young, because I still had plenty of family members to talk to.

Mary Rohrer Dexter said...

Hi everyone! Here is mine for this week!

Mary Rohrer Dexter said...

Janice, I love that you thought you could complete your family history in six weeks. My first goal was unrealistic too. I wanted to get each line back to immigration and determine what county they immigrated from. I wanted to in that way determine my heritage. Of course I learned that the migration that occurred prior to immigration was substantial so getting each line to immigration was not going to determine my heritage.

Mary Rohrer Dexter said...

Melissa - I have never played Sims2 and don't know what it is. It must be fun. Cool that a game sparked your interest.

Mary Rohrer Dexter said...

Edward - the job photographing for your aunt sounds like a dream job. It is very cool that you have a craft like photography to bring to the table in your family history research.

Mary Rohrer Dexter said...

Lisa - it is very neat that your older family members were such an important part of your life. I had some of those type relatives in my childhood too. I don't see that kind of intergenerational exchange going on today with youngsters and it worries me.

Mary Rohrer Dexter said...

Wendy - I left a comment on your blog post.

Mary Rohrer Dexter said...

Richard - someone invited me to try brothers keeper a long time ago. I was using FTM at that time. But brothers keeper was a nice program. I use Reunion now.

Mary Rohrer Dexter said...

Shirley Ann - I love that you got to spend time with your grandmother and get the stories down before she passed on.

Mary Rohrer Dexter said...

GeneGinny - are your Boone's the English line or the German Bohn's? I have the German Bohn line in my history.

Mary Rohrer Dexter said...

Janice - I left my comment for you on your blog post.

Mary Rohrer Dexter said...

Randy - I always try to comment on everyone's post that participates in the challenge but I am not sure I always remember to comment on yours. Two things struck me about your post. First of all I loved your comment that you thought "This shouldn't take long" in respect to your beginning your family history search. And I am totally envious that you have been to NEGHS. Very cool.

Unknown said...

Looking back it was inevitable that I would develop the interest somehow, but the event that spared me off was when my dad casually mentioned that my great-grandfather (who was never discussed beforehand) was famous for carrying a 256lbs sack of wheat for a full mile.

It was searching for a record of this event online that lead me to family history sites like GenesReunited and Ancestry, and then I connected with a cousin who not only had photos of the event I was looking for, but family photos that went back to my great-great-great grandparents.

There was no turning back after that, I am now a full blown fanatic.

dritchhart said...


I know the exact moment and event that triggered my interest. It was in 1993 when I received a letter in the mail to "Dear Cousin:" The letter announced that the sender had just written a book on the Richhart/Ritchhart/Ritschard Family. She told a little about the book, mentioned the Library of Congress catalog Card Number. The book was $45 plus $5 postage. A lot of those type letters are rip offs and they just provide you with a list of the surnames out of phone books, maybe organized by state and maybe a family crest they found online, along with a history of the name. I barely knew how to use a computer; but managed to check the Library of Congress Catalog and, sure enough, the book was registered. I ordered the book and when I received it, my father and his family were listed and it took the Ritchhart family name back to the 1500 in the little Swiss village where Christian Ritschard emigrated from in 1750 to Pennsylvania. Well that did it--I was hooked. I decided I needed to get a software program to put all the data in the book into. I had seen adds for Family Tree Maker, so I ordered it and was off and running. I later corresponded with the author Bettye Richhart, bought several more books for all my kids and grandkids, and actually stayed with she and her husband while on a trip across country. I am very thankful for that trigger; because it has provided me with thousands of hours of enjoyment researching, lecturing and helping others with their research. . . Del Ritchhart

Seeds to Tree said...

In teaching genealogy, I've learned that there are several predominate triggers that start an interest in genealogy: 1)a book, TV show, or movie such as Roots, or the Sims! 2)a life changing event such as a death, or 3) having an interest, and finally finding time to do it. In my case it was a life changing event.

My dad passed away in 1996. He was the only child of an only child. He and he parents immigrated here after WWII, the lone family on his side to come. Before he passed, realizing what little time we had left, I interviewed him in the car to and from chemo treatments. Wrote notes on his stories when I got home. With money I inherited after his death. I bought my first new computer and a genealogical data base program (FTM).

Previously, I had done a little research, that I had kept in a shoebox. I was thrilled at the flexibility of a database. I had always loved the stories and information, but got frustrated with how to keep it in an organized fashion. This was the turning point for me.

I feel fortunate I started rather early, I was in my 40's. I still had elders in the family whom I could interview. My father’s mother who lived to 99, wrote to our relatives in Europe helping me with information on the family. She let me interview her for hours. Her stories were fascinating.

I found that family members who knew of my interest, were more than happy to share and give me the information they had saved. I didn't know it at the time, but it was the beginning of becoming the family historian and archivist. I am very thankful for all those who were so generous.

Linda Stufflebean said...

Here is the link to my post:

I started when I decided to prove whether my mom's Adams line was linked to the Presidents or not.

Unknown said...

My journey started about 8 years ago with the aim of proving or disproving the myth that we were descended from an English Civil War character who was shot for high treason.

Then it just sorted of expanded from there into all 4 of my grandparent's lines, and has gone down a few rabbit holes as people have told more stories and mysteries about my family. It never gets dull!

Here's the full story on my new blog:

Anonymous said...

I'm a few days late but here is my blog post! Basically, I thought I could find one thing...and two years later here I am!

Mel said...