It’s Just Genealogy

“I trace my family history so I’ll know who to blame….”

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In going with the theme of this article, I’m shooting these photos at the lot owned by the Second Life group, Just Genealogy, which assists members with suggestions and training on how to obtain needed information for their family history research.  This brand-new “romper” from Styles by Danielle is perfect for a hot summer day in Second Life. It comes in a selection of colors; I’m wearing the Prussian blue, fitting for someone of German descent (grin).

My husband comes from a long line of Southern professionals — accountants, engineers, physicians, even a very prominent pharmacist in a regional city.  As for me, it looks as if I come from a long line of — immigrant German farmers.  I believe they came in via Pennsylvania, and worked their way across that very large state — I used to live there — into Ohio, and from there up into Michigan.  (There’s no evidence yet that any of them fought on either side in the Toledo War; if so, I hope they fought on the Michigan side [grin].)

How do I know these things?  Through genealogy, the study of family history stretching back through the generations.  Almost everyone wonders at one point or another, “Where do I really come from?  Who was before me, and what kind of people were they like?”  Genealogy is the study that aids you in filling in the information, through rigorous science and technique.

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Note the buckle trim here on the front….

“It’s hard to be humble with ancestors like mine!”

Like many of my generation, I became interested in genealogy originally following the broadcast of Roots on ABC in 1977.  Family history became quite the thing for some time, and one of my grandmothers attempted (unsuccessfully) to make a start on researching the family line.  I made a few desultory stabs at it myself; but, without real knowledge of any generations beyond my grandparents on either side, and without easy access to the records, all of this led nowhere.

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…and the back.

“Genealogy: a haystack full of needles. It’s the threads I need.”

That was back in 1977.  Since then, genealogy has become much easier to get started on, if no less exacting.  One of the largest Internet corporations, Ancestry.com, offers interested people six-month memberships with access to their indexed and digitized collections of individual records, as well as a large community of like-thinking individuals to aid you in your search.  Similar sites, such as Archives.com, USGenWeb and familysearch.org (a part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) offer similar collections, some free, some requiring a paid fee.  This helps reduce the amount of traveling you would normally need to do in order to obtain access to documents, especially as the tree branches out.  (Remember, each branch of the main line of a family tree increases as a power of two.  Your parents are 21; your four grandparents are 22; all of their parents are 23, or eight in number, and so on. And that doesn’t take into account aunts, uncles and cousins, all of whom generated their own families.)

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Dani Plassitz includes shoes for each color, made for SLink high feet. In keeping with the theme of the outfit, the heels bear a zipper in addition to the buckles on the straps.

“Every family tree has some sap in it….”

Keep in mind, too, that someone isn’t related to you just because they have the same surname, and that someone with a completely different name could be at least a half-relation, depending.  The man I knew for years as my paternal grandfather when I was 4 and 5 was really a step-grandfather.  My grandmother divorced my biological grandfather in the 1920s, and he died in Jackson, Michigan several years later — and she never mentioned a word about him to me; neither did my father.  I learned the most about him via the master key of American genealogy, the decennial censuses.

Begin with what you know — you.  Write down your own facts, and those of your siblings and, especially, your mother and father, and their parents as far back as you can.  Oral histories are useful, and give you a start; but the only thing that proves someone’s existence and relation is documentary evidence — preferably official paper, but secondary sources, such as family Bibles, diaries, old letters, newspaper clippings and similar can give clues that help you establish your roots.  If you become interested in doing a family history, find good books on genealogy — there are more available than ever — read the magazines such as Family Tree, Family Chronicle and Who Do You Think You Are? (from the BBC); take classes, either local or online; contact your local genealogical society (there’s almost certainly one somewhere near you); and be ready to learn, learn, learn — available sources, techniques, software and paper tools, photography, the fine art of gravestone rubbing, and other things.

Many a family historian can relate how they become driven to fill in that link for that ancestor and add to the knowledge of their family.  You may find yourself wanting to write up your work, either for just your own family or for larger publication.  Don’t laugh at this!  Genealogical libraries and collections willingly and gratefully accept privately published family histories from dozens of authors every year as long as they are well researched and can prove their results.  Some software packages, such as Ancestry’s Family Tree Maker, help you in doing this, with reports and templates that can be massaged into a usable book form.  And remember, if nothing else, to record your own personal history, as well as that of your parents as much as you can.  Your own children may be asking these questions one day….

If the above doesn’t get you going, then go take a look at TLC this coming week for the premiere of the second season of the American version of Who Do You Think You Are?  This television series, which has run for at least a decade on the BBC and was revived once for two seasons in America by NBC, returns with six more celebrities, examining their pedigrees to help them learn more about what some of their people were like.  You can find (ahem) additional shows on YouTube.  I recommend the ones on Gwyneth Paltrow, Vanessa Williams, Lionel Ritchie, Patrick Stewart, and — wrenchingly — Kim Cattrall, who helped her mother and aunts discover why their father disappeared from their lives, leaving them in poverty for years.

Cattrall’s case does bring up a point that the amateur should remember:  you may find out things about your family that you don’t like, or that shine a darker light on someone that you thought you knew from family talks.  Families often don’t know everything — why did you get started on genealogy anyway? — or don’t want to disclose everything, not wanting to rattle the bones hanging in the family closets.  Be prepared for it; it’s all part of the game.  None of us are or were saints, and you will run across the occasional horse thief, cad and “gentleman” (a reference to Irish smugglers in the 1700s and 1800s).  Learn to accept it, and move on.

Hopefully there won’t be too many horse thieves and cattle rustlers in your pedigree, though.  Genealogy can be fascinating and fun, especially when you find the one fact that lets you break through a “brick wall” and fill in facts about one of your ancestors.  Good luck to you!

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“Friends come and go, but relatives tend to accumulate.”

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The details:

Skin: PXL Faith (SK NE LEB)
Hands and Feet: SLink (casual hands, high feet)
Eyes: Sterling Artistry Starlight Eyes (Brightly Blue)
Nails: Shakeup! Basic Brights applier
Hair: .:cheveux:. F055 (Red03 – NoScript; available at Hair Fair)
Dress: Styles by Danielle Aviana (mesh; blue)
Shoes: Styles by Danielle Aviva (SLink high feet, mesh; Prussian blue)
Jewelry: Maxi Gossamer Damasc bangles (Silver, combo 1); Maxi Gossamer Paris Weekend earrings (silver, script colors/resize)
Makeup (eye application order): Oceane Jade lipstick (Papaya); Oceane Metallix Eyeshadow (Caleidoscope Cat 4); *BOOM* Liquid Glaze (lashed, black)

Photographed at Just Genealogy in Wollah region, Mainland

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