I am still relatively new to genealogy, but one of the things I love most about it is the research. This has always been what is appealing to me about history in general and I am glad to have found something that gives me my history fix in the midst of mommy duties. During my recent trip to WV to visit my family there, my grandma, mom and I decided that we were going to take an overnight trip somewhere to work on genealogy. We had a couple of options of places to visit within driving distance of my mom’s house, but in the end we went with the closest. So we armed ourselves with lots of pens and notebooks, packed the kids off to my sister’s for a slumber party, and headed out to Logan County, Ohio.
Whatever I was expecting from this trip, it was so much more. Now, we didn’t exactly find a wealth of new info or anything like that, but the experience itself was one that has me already chomping at the bit for our next excursion. We visited cemeteries, scoured courthouse records, and invaded the local Genealogical Society and in the midst of our hunt, I realized the two most important things I would take away from this trip.
The first and the one I will be looking at for this post is a sense of connection to your past. You can find information online, but there is nothing like seeing things associated with your ancestors first hand. This goes for documents as well as things like headstones or the house in which they may have once lived. I knew the date of my 3rd great-grandfather’s marriage. I even knew that he was married in a double wedding with his sister. But, to open the huge book at the courthouse and to see his and my 3rd great grandmother’s names in fading ink on a worn and fragile page listed directly below his sister’s name with the same marriage date from more than 160 years ago, that was something that has definitely stuck with me. Now this may be just me (the woman with an obsession for old books), but touching, seeing, smelling, these old documents, this is what makes me feel connected to history.
Even more than marriage records, or wills, seeing the headstones of my ancestors connected me to my past like I hadn’t ever really been before. We knew which cemetery they were buried in, but as we pulled up next to it, we were grateful that the cemetery wasn’t too large because we had no idea where exactly they were buried. After some frustrating searching, we finally found the graves. Now, my third great-grandfather and mother whose marriage we had found earlier, weren’t here. They are in Missouri which is another trip all together, but his parents and their first child who died in infancy was. And, as I stood next to the headstone of my fourth great-grandparents and put back together the cracked headstone of my fifth great-grandmother I was awed and amazed. It isn’t the same as standing in front of a headstone of someone you actually knew or were close to. You don’t mourn for your ancestors like you would a close loved one. You just feel a bond and a realization that these people were the ones who came before me, who made it possible for me to be…well me. Yes, I know I sound a bit fanciful, but the connection that existed in that moment was really amazing. You almost don’t want to leave the cemetery because you know when you do, you lose a little of that feeling of closeness.
The internet has made genealogy so much easier to find out about your ancestors and your past. You can find scanned documents and strangers can post pictures of family members graves for you to see. And this is all great. On an almost daily basis I am thankful for technology in regards to family history. BUT, I am telling you, there is nothing like the connection you feel when you are up close and personal with the documents and things associated with an ancestor. So if you were ever considering going on a genealogy road trip…DO IT! It is definitely worth it!