We’ve all just finished digesting our way through Thanksgiving, our refrigerators staggering from the overload of leftovers. So naturally it’s time for the “what I’m thankful for” post. It would be easiest to list my
- Grandaunts and granduncles
- Husband, children, and grandchildren
- Yadda, yadda, yadda
and be done with it. I could then move on to my Christmas cards and shopping. It’s not that I’m not thankful to them all—if not for some of them, I wouldn’t be here! They have each been (at different times)
- Smart enough to know when to not say anything!
So, yes, I am truly grateful to all of them! There are many other people or things, though, helping me over the last 45 years, most of them never realizing it. I am very thankful for:
All the cousins (firsts, seconds, removed one or more times, whatever!) who have shared photocopies, pictures, stories, and family updates with me. More importantly, their thank yous and appreciation for my efforts to gather information and build the family tree kept me going when I didn’t have time, couldn’t find the needed records, or ran into brick walls. As we’ve aged and they have more time, some have come over to the “dark side” and have become collaborators and working partners. It’s wonderful having company!
Al Gore (or whoever!), for inventing the internet. For good or bad (most likely both), the internet has changed genealogy forever, in so many ways. Among other things, it’s made keeping in touch with people much simpler and quicker.
Bill Gates and Steve Jobs (keeping both my Apple and Windows offspring happy!) for bringing computers into our homes. Not having to line up genealogy forms on my typewriter has given back years of my life! Only needing to type information into my genealogy software once? Amazing!
Rootsweb.com, for hosting message boards and mailing lists for decades! I’ve learned so much from the other members, even finding distant cousins on occasion.
Local historical societies maintaining web pages—particularly the Manitowoc, Wisconsin one. Back when Ancestry was still just a magazine and Find-A-Grave and the newspapers websites didn’t exist, those pages provided us with cemetery readings, Civil War rosters, and local obituaries that would have been cumbersome to find without a road trip. I am eternally grateful to the volunteers who gathered the information and made it available.
All the Latter Day Saints missionaries who traveled the world for decades, microfilming records (and still digitizing new ones). Some of those records might have been lost by now, if not for them. Those microfilms are the foundation for the indexed images at FamilySearch.com.
Ken Burns (yes, the PBS documentary guy!), for reminding us that history is about the “little guy,” not just the Washingtons, Grants, and Lincolns. He reminded us, too, about the diaries, manuscripts, letters, and photos left by our ancestors. Though harder to locate, those documents let us hear their own voices, and paint a much better picture of history than text books ever could. Even if we never find anything penned by our ancestors, reading an account from others in similar circumstances gives us a much better understanding of what our ancestors’ lives were like.
The many genealogy authors, lecturers, and bloggers who have
pushed prodded encouraged me to be a better genealogist. At the top of the list are:
- Elizabeth Shown Mills, helping me to better document my research, enticing me to read over 1600 pages of her books (2nd and 3rd editions of Evidence Explained), teaching me to better evaluate the documents I find.
- Judy Russell, who’s shown me the law can be fun and useful, and must be understood in the context of the era.
- Blaine Bettinger and Diahann Southard who have unraveled some of the mysteries of DNA for me. I’m still just getting my DNA feet wet, but the knowledge is slowly seeping in . . .
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, and none of those experts realize they are mentoring me. But every time I read their book or blog or watch a webinar, I’m reminded that this is important, and worth doing well—as well as I can, anyway.
Of course, I can’t leave out Amy Johnson Crow, the instigator of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge. This year has pushed me to think about my research and my ancestors. It’s been a little scary—putting myself in the public eye with my writing—and challenging to make sure I have content ready each Sunday. But I’ve learned to become creative in deciding how to interpret the prompts, and to trust my gut when deciding what to write about. I’m glad I decided to take the plunge.
And of course, I’m thankful to everyone who shows up to read each week’s blog. Thanks for stopping by!