As the country celebrates Thanksgiving this week, we’re more aware than usual of how much we value our family and friends. With regard to genealogy, I decided to write about the things I am thankful for on my genealogical journey.
1. The Library – Back in the days before the internet (No, Virginia, it did not always exist!), it was the library that allowed me to learn about genealogy – how to get started, where to go, what was available, etc. The rest is history!
2. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) – I haven’t been to my regional branch in years, but visits there were essential in the early days of my research. Besides, you had to visit – no records were available online anywhere! I’m glad that NARA exists and has safeguarded these documents that have helped so many of us find our roots. I have fond memories of soundex codes and cranking microfilm machines. Once I even visited the National Archives in Washington, DC. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, it is truly impressive and well worth the visit.
3. The LDS – millions of records filmed and stored away in some NORAD-like cave, just waiting for people like me to find some obscure town in Europe to research? Who knew? I still don’t fully understand the “why” of what they do, but I don’t need to. I am so grateful that I can read old German and Polish records in the comfort of New Jersey.
4. Catholic priests – I’m thankful for all of the priests that took the time to pull out their old record books to help me. One local priest thanked me for the opportunity to look through the old books, because it reminded him of his role in the continuity of the Church when he saw the notations of those who served in the parish years before he was born. A priest in Poland invited me and my translator into the rectory as he tried to find a record in a book from the 1820’s. And it was my friend Fr. Lou that helped me start the journey overseas – it was a baptismal record he found that finally confirmed a town name in Germany as my immigrant’s point of origin.
5. Rootsweb mailing lists – Before everyone had a web site and a blog, mailing lists and message boards were a way to learn from each other.
6. Steve Morse – Mr. Morse’s code enabled me to finally find some of my more elusive immgrants! The man is a genius. Thanks to his “one step” searches, I continually have more reasons to thank him.
7. Helpful strangers – In addition to the priests and list members above, I think all genealogists have – at one time or another – been helped by the kindness of strangers. Here’s a thank you to all of those librarians, cemetery record-keepers, funeral homes, and residents of towns foreign to me that took a moment to help!
8. The genea-blogging community – I wasn’t sure about all this blogging business, but who would not be encouraged by such a warm welcome from a bunch of strangers? I now call them friends, and I learn something new about genealogy every week from them.
9. My ancestors – Many people wonder why genealogists spend so much time digging up the past. I hope that by finding the name of some ancestor from centuries ago, a name literally not spoken on this earth in years, I can bring some form of honor or respect to their names. They can be remembered. Thanks also to my great-grandparents for making that long journey from your homes that has allowed me to call the United States of America my home!
10. My nieces and nephews – You are too young to show any interest in Aunt Donna’s papers, charts, and books right now, but I hope that some day you’ll take all of my work and pass it on. Thank you for making my personal history full of fun, love, and laughter!