When I was younger, I never thought much about genealogy. It seemed very complicated and overwhelming. Charts, charts, and more charts. There were other people to do the work. Plus, as a child, I was the fourth generation of living relatives. (Now I’m the second.)
I felt–and still feel–pretty lucky that those productive, motivated people were on both sides of my family.
On my dad’s side, my grandma had an uncle who compiled hundreds of pages of family history and genealogical information. He self-published a book in 1928, of which my grandma had one of only a handful of copies.
When I bought my first house in 2005, my grandma gave me an unusual box for Christmas. Inside it was the special book her uncle had published, which he gave to my grandmother’s aunt in 1938. She passed it down to my grandma, who gave it to me. In my mind, it is a sacred record. And, since I don’t have children of my own, I hope that my niece or nephew regard it with the same esteem as I do. One day, I too, will need to pass it on.
My mom’s dad, my grandpa, took great pains to research his family. He encountered more than a few obstacles, especially because his own father was an orphan in Mexico, and finding records on his history was very difficult. It took years, but eventually my grandpa’s determination was rewarded. He found the necessary information on his father. While visiting Utah in 1994 to attend my BYU graduation, he even visited the genealogical library in Salt Lake City. That’s tenacity, folks.
When my grandpa died in March 2008, I took the family tree he constructed, which always had a place of honor over his desk. Now it has a place of honor over mine. I see it every day and am reminded of those who came before me.
A year before, on my maternal grandma’s side, an ambitious cousin also published a book of genealogy. He made it available to anyone who wanted to purchase a copy.
Incredibly, all of these things became available to me within only 3 years. That sounds like more than a coincidence to me.
When I moved up north with my husband in 2010, I began exploring Family Search and doing more genealogy. It was fun, but time-consuming, and I eventually abandoned it…until now…
What’s a great way to light a fire under someone to do family history? Match them up with FAMOUS PEOPLE. Naturally.
A few days ago I was introduced to a website called Relative Finder, which is attached to Family Search. Using existing genealogical data that you or someone else has entered, Relative Finder tells you if you share common ancestors with any well-known people. You need to have an account with Family Search (it’s FREE) and you need to input at least a few names, but it isn’t difficult. And you can always find a local Family History Center where someone will help you if you need it. (Also FREE.)
The cynic might be thinking, “What?” And I hear you. I was thinking the same thing, except…that the site also shows you how you’re related through that common ancestor.
Example: According to Relative Finder, I am 14th cousin, once removed, to Elvis Presley. That’s right, The King of Rock n Roll himself. Let’s see how:
Yes, that common ancestor was a few hundred years back, but the proof is right there. Elvis and I are cousins. Distant cousins, but still cousins.
Others in my list include Susan B. Anthony, Emily Dickinson, Harry Truman, Henry David Thoreau, Samuel Morse, Abigail Adams, Philo T. Farnsworth, Walt Disney and several others.
Besides the fun of seeing such names, it is also a reminder that we, all of us, are connected. I don’t know about you, but that makes me view the entire human race differently. That person you cut off in traffic? The lady whose groceries you helped pick up? The person online whose comment made you mad? The teenager who handed you your drive-through order?
They might be your relatives.
Something to ponder.