I started doing genealogy because my grandma had a hunch.
Grandma Betty, my mom’s mom, was a wonderful person. She passed away in 2000, when I was eleven years old. My memories of her are more like clips, but they are powerful. I remember her smiling a lot and the sound of her voice. She gave great hugs. When we visited in the summer she took us to the zoo, and the Falls of the Ohio, and for a boat ride on the Belle of Louisville. She took me to my first day of school ever because my mom was at the hospital delivering my brother. And she used to pull the sofa bed out for us in the back room so we could stay up and watch movies. Every memory I have of her radiates warmth and kindness.
I was too young to know her as a person when she passed, but I started to learn more as I grew up. She was very smart and had wanted to go to college but her parents were unable to send her. She had a talent for quilting, crocheting, and knitting. When I was a kid I didn’t know that she made the quilts I admired so much on our beds. And she was very social. She played bridge and threw a great Christmas party. But she didn’t have the chance to join one group that really interested her.
Her best friend was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The DAR has a strong reputation as a service and educational organization, but they also provide a great social network. The catch is that you have to prove lineage from a participant in the Revolutionary War to become a member. My grandma had a fervent hunch that she qualified for membership, but we didn’t have access to organized family records, and pre-internet ancestry research required massive legwork in libraries and records offices. I’m not sure if she ever looked into it before she was ill.
I’m her only granddaughter and I’ve always felt very connected to her. I wish she had lived longer for so many reasons, but especially because I think I am like her in many ways. I seem to have inherited her knitting skills. Many of my favorite childhood books are ones that she picked for me. We definitely share a love of the original Law & Order. And I think she was naturally curious and enjoyed getting answers. After I graduated with my Masters in library science in 2013, I was sitting in my parents’ kitchen and saw a news segment on family tree research. I realized I had all the skills to do it, and all the time until I found a job. I was going to find out if Grandma Betty was right.
I started my family history journey with one question, but the work has spawned many others. I have almost 400 years of family history in America, much of interesting, some of it complicated. I decided it’s time to write it down as a testament to a great hunch. Because, of course, she was extremely right.