Saturday, May 21, 2011

And Away We Go...

Hello and welcome!

My hunt for ancestors began back in 1999 when one of my high school teachers gave us the assignment of doing a "mini-genealogy" going back to our great-grandparents.

Sounds easy right?

Nope. You see, my father isn't much help with information of actual names of relatives. It was "Uncle Joe", who's real name was Dwight, or Grandma Opiola, who's actual blood-tie to us was through her first marriage, not her "Opiola" surname. So, it was a challenge from the get-go. Needless to say, with little to no communication between my father, his brother and sister (and no way for me to actually contact them myself), I was only able to turn in my assignment with my parents and grandparents. Still aced it though.

But, it got me asking myself "Where are they?". I had to come from someone somewhere, and those someone's had to come from someone else. We didn't just drop out of the sky. So, I started hunting.

This was back when most of today's paid sites were free sites. Remember back when Rootsweb wasn't linked to Remember when you could search family trees on Ancestry, or anywhere for that matter, for free? Yeah, as awesome as that used to be, it was still no help to me. It seemed that no one in the world knew who my small collection of ancestors were. I had no idea what I was doing, if the information I had was right, and if I was spelling anything right. In fact, there are still archived posts of mine on Ancestry and Rootsweb that I look at now and think to myself "Jeesh, no wonder barely anyone could help, that information is all wrong!"

A month or two after my genealogy assignment was completed, "Uncle Joe" passed away. It was then I found out, through an old friend of his, more information about my family. That's also when I learned his name was Dwight and not Joe. I finally had a starting point. I still got dates wrong, I still had misspelled surnames, but at least I had something.

Fast forward to 2011. Over the years, I've searched off and on, learning a bit more here and there, losing information and having to rely on my memory and my old, inaccurate forum postings to get started again. With all the "mainstream" genealogy sites now being paid sites, and not being very cost-effective at that, I was left with my trusty friend Google. You're thinking "well, there's free trials" to which I answer "like I'm going to remember to cancel my membership".

Well, I actually did it. I did a free trial for 2 weeks at Ancestry and I DID remember to cancel it before I got charged for a year's subscription. And I found so much information, I thought about NOT canceling it. Then my budget yelled at me and I had too.

I saved everything to my tree. Even if I didn't think it was relevant, I attached it to someone in the general vicinity of the year it referenced. Why? Because, though I can't see the information anymore, I can see the title of it. I can often search good old Google and pull it up someplace else, be it old books now gone digital, snippets of census records, or even in someone else's family tree posted elsewhere. I spent those whole two weeks on Ancestry, scouring records, references, stories, pictures, trying to connection A to B and B to C. Do you honestly think I'm going to remember the birth date of a third cousin three times removed on my 5th great grandfather's side who married his first cousin's daughter's best friend? That's just an example, but no I'm not. And if you can, I wish I had your brain. :)

You may say that "Well, anyone who looks at your ancestry tree thinking they found matches is going to rely on that source information". To which I reply "Always double check your OWN sources". Don't blindly rely on someone else to have everything right, especially not on the internet! If I have sources for the information I post here, I'll reference it. If I don't, it's going to have a very nice disclaimer expressing in large bold wording that I have no source information.

Hopefully, I'll get the hang of this blogging business, and maybe, just maybe, one of my ancestors will be that elusive one you've been looking for. As the days pass, I'll be adding as much information as I can, including some random notes and dates I've scoured from the deep and dark hallways of the internet.

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