…or how I lost my life over the course of one lunch break.
My office is a block-ish away from the Atlanta Central Library. When the weather wasn’t so ass, I spent my lunch breaks walking down to the smoothie place in Fairlie-poplar, which is how I discovered its proximity. My library card had expired and was in my maiden name anyways, so I swung in to get a new library card and poke around.
When poking around, I noticed that there was an entire floor dedicated to genealogy stuff. I didn’t have time to check it out, though. I left with a copy of The Bonesetter’s Daughter (which was surprisingly good!) and a burning desire to go back and check out that floor.
I devoured that book and 2 days later arrived back at the library with my coworker, Sarah, in tow. We found ourselves up on the 5th floor, where there was a pretty intense Margaret Mitchell exhibit and the genealogy department. Walking through the delightfully musty shelves, I happened upon an early 1900s census of Coffee County, where I’m from, and found a listing of a man with my maiden name.
And that verily started my downfall.
Upon returning back to work, I sent a facebook message to my father asking him if I was related to this man. As a bit of an aside, I’ve had, at best, a strained relationship with my father since… forever. My parents divorced when I was 3, but my father was in the navy and stationed out of a base in another state so i very rarely ever saw him before that. About 2 years ago, he reached out to me via facebook and we’ve been in spotty contact ever since, culminating in meeting for the first time in 20 years at his youngest sister’s funeral in 2012.
Anyway, I’ve known for a while that my father has been doing genealogy research, so I knew he’d be the person to ask. However, due to his rather transient job, I didn’t hear back from him for over a month. Within that time I had:
- joined ancestry.com
- found his profile on there
- done enough independent research via the website (thanks to free trial) to match his
- started doing my own research at the library during my lunch breaks
Genealogy research has a tendency to eat up a LOT of time, I’ve noticed. But, it’s something that I have found extremely rewarding given that my immediate family have been displaced from my extended family since my mother was in the womb. We’ve always been very isolated and it’s great to learn about these other relatives and start making connections. My crowning achievement has been finding my Opa’s family in Germany. It’s truly incredible, no one I have contact with knew that my Opa had more daughters than just my grandmother.
Having all of this information has very much colored the way I see myself, my family, and life in general. Knowing where I came from and seeing how far back it goes is just mind-blowing. I’ve traced certain branches of my family back to the 16-1700s. I learned that my mom and dad’s family fought on opposite sides of the Civil war. I learned that I have multiple ancestors that fought in the Revolutionary war. I haven’t really wrapped my head around all of it yet, because it’s so different from my isolated upbringing.
There are still some mysteries. I have no idea who my grandmother’s father is, because she was an illegitimate child. That’s the biggest one I’m working on right now. I have a name written in her baby book, but I have no idea where her mother was living at the time of her conception, which is making it difficult to track down.crossposted from fuzzdecay.com.