Question of the Week: What first got you interested in genealogy?

+55 votes
What was it that first peaked your interest in genealogy? Share your answers below!
in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (2.0m points)
edited by Eowyn Walker
A part of a genealogy record given to me by my grandmother that was missing part of the pages. Those missing pages were the pages that included our family. That was in about 1990 and I have been at it ever since.
I was always wanting to know about my family history and have been working on it for many years now. I'm enjoying learning what I can find about both of my parents and their families as well.
I discovered at age 14 that I was adopted. All I knew were the names of my father and mother from my birth certificate. I discovered a tiny part of my family history in 1999, and finally just last year in 2015 discovered a whole lot more, back to the time of Charlemagne. If my family had been documented earlier I would have been able to fill that dark hole that comes with a lost and unknown ancestry--who am I and where did I come from? Now if all goes well, some other person, some little sheep that gets separated from their family, will be able to reclaim their lost heritage because it will be accessible. Thanks wikitree and contributors!
I loved your comment Glenda,,,I wasn't adopted but I knew hardly anything  about my family.   I know how joyful I have felt since coming to Wikitree,,,and  I  feel I was one of those little sheep and kindly sheperds have been leading me home.

My mother died on March 4th 2014 and perhaps it's not a coincidence that  two years later very close to that anniversary I joined Wikitree

Perhaps it was a way to fill that empty 'family' space I had lived with my whole life,,,after my mom's death  that space just cried out even louder to be filled.

The sadness I felt that my mom had died and I still didn't have any info,,,and now it was too late,,,,well that sadness is GONE!!!!  

Thankyou to the wonderful wikitree 'elves' who scurry around stuffing stockings  with geneological 'goodies'
It was while I was still on active duty in the US Navy. The ship I was on was supposed to pull into Dublin, Ireland for St Patrick's Day. Due to the huff and month disease Dublin shut down the parade and told the US Navy we could not pull in. We where diverted to Spain. I found an Irish Pub that was out of the way and had such a good time with the Irish crowd that had come over to Spain from Ireland that they invited me to their closed reception the next day (St Patrick's day). I went back to the ship that evening and was able to call my Mother and said to her you must tell me I am Irish as I am having way to much fun with them here. My Mother responded my God Bob yes you are Irish, you are a McDonald, a Gleason and a Flannigan. After the reception everyone went back to the Irish pub and I noticed on the wall a Map of Ireland which was broken down into the clan's. I was there looking up the family names my Mother gave me when the Irish Folk singer John came up to me and asked me what I was doing. I told him that I was having such a great time with all of them that last night I called me Mum and asked her If I was Irish and I am now looking on the Map where my ancestors came from. John went back to the Mic and stopped the whole Bar. He said we all have to change our Wills, Bob is Irish.
A nagging doubt about a particular relative and off i went!
Oh my Kathy Wills - that's exactly what happened to me! Grandma gave me the family tree she had and I WASN'T ON IT! It felt so wonderful to fill in those branches!
Among my early memories is visiting my grandmothers house in

Rockhampton. It was one of the old  Queenslander homes. Hanging

on the walls in the hallway and the lounge room were those splendid

formal metal framed family photos. There was one of my great grand

mother. my aunt, my parents wedding photo and some of my great

great uncles. I grew up with stories of my Jewish heritage and my

great  grandmother as a midwife in the early days of Rockhampton.

I left it at that till I got a phone call from a cousin I never knew I had.

She gave me a detailed 105 page family history . That was the start

of my own search.
My great grandmother was alive until I was almost 10. When we used to visit her, all sorts of relatives used to drop in and she would talk to me about them and about what she knew of her ancestry. I was fascinated. In my teens I started putting it all down on paper, but there were so many questions, so, when I was 17, my parents took me on a road trip to my great grandmother's town. Grandma, her daughter, came along. We traipsed through cemetaries and looked at church records...then, when I was able to access The NSW archives, it all fell together. I adore my family history. It makes the big history more real.
Susan - you have got to put this memory in your profile bio so that your descendants can share in the fascination of their ancestry!
Great question! I love inspiration. I'm still new here and learning the workings of comment vs answer. Thanks!

72 Answers

+24 votes
My Grandmother(s).

I think they caught me from the womb, sat me on their knee and told me stories of our family. I was groomed at an early age to be our family historian.

by Mags Gaulden G2G6 Pilot (579k points)
+24 votes
When I was about 13 or so my mom was a Family History Consultant at the Family History Library for our church.  During the summers she would take me with her and I'd sit and look through microfilms or get on the computer and look up stuff in the Ancestral File and International Genealogical Index.

My grandfather on my dad's side had done a lot of research and had piles of papers of notes and I started going through those and organizing them.  

That's where my fascination in genealogy began!
by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (2.0m points)
I'm trying to get my Granddaughter interested, she is the same age as you were. My children have no interest at all.
Keep trying! You never know what might catch her attention.  Could be photos.  Have you taken her on a cemetery visit?  There might be some fun apps geared towards teenagers that might peak her interest.
+24 votes

My Mom brought me copies of two documents related to her great-grandfather from her family home in North Carolina in 1985.

Alvis Baucom (1833-1912) Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America.

Her parents had died that year and I was still grieving the loss of our son. We used the research time as a way to recover and it became a bond between us (we had never been close). I gave it up when she died in 1996 but have recently returned to it with renewed passion.

by Debi Hoag G2G6 Pilot (343k points)
Wow, what a touching story Debi. Thanks for sharing it. I'm glad you found your way back to genealogy! (and to WikiTree.)
Thanks Eowyn. Re-reading it, I realize that it's wrong.

I didn't stop completely in 1996, I only stopped researching her family. I continued with my Dad's until I hit a brick wall, then started on my husband's. I only really stopped in 2005 when we divorced. Now I'm working on all of them again and have added my new husband's family to the mix too.

You may have heard of the squirrel method of genealogy? I've perfected it.
I'm guilty of falling down rabbit holes. Often.  Very often.
+21 votes
In the early 1980's my Grandmother dumped a BIG pile of papers on my desk when she found out that I had an early genealogy program so that I could print out reports for my children and their school and or scouting projects. Over the 30+ years since then I have worked with a large number of different programs.
by Dale Byers G2G Astronaut (1.6m points)
Nice! Did any of your kids catch the genealogy bug?
I am working on my daughter, but we will have to wait and see. Over Easter weekend I had her and my granddaughter interview "daddy's" side and start that line, but before we got too far we found a lot of them were already on here. I adopted what I could and that is my current "project", making those profiles that have been untouched since May of 2011 from a GEDCOM upload presentable and sourced.
Sounds like a nice way to get them involved. Thanks for taking on those GEDCOM profles.
You have to be careful when giving a young girl a list of questions, she asked her grandmother "Grandma, when do you expect to die?" At least that grandma has a good sense of humor.
Ha! Oh man. What was Grandma's reply?
"Not for a long time."
+24 votes
Two reasons: First, the families of my mother and my father didn't get along all that well and I wanted to find out more about the reasons. The second reason is that my family was kicked out of Bohemia after WWII as German even though we still have close relatives there (a granduncle and second cousins among many).
by Helmut Jungschaffer G2G6 Pilot (551k points)
Where did your family go after you were kicked out? Did you ever find out why your parents' families didn't get along?
The family went first to Bavaria then settled in Baden-W├╝rttemberg. Like in most cases the reason for the spat between the families were rather trivial: one family landowners, conservative, and living in the area for centuries, the other workers, from the opposite end of the political spectrum, and relatively recently come to the area from another area in Bohemia.
+24 votes
When I was growing up there were a number of mysteries on my maternal side that were frequently talked about in the family. These included things like an uncle who had gone missing and a grandmother who had grown up in an orphanage and wasn't sure who her family was. As some of these mysteries got pieced together over the years family history would get talked about.

What caused me to dive into genealogy seriously as an adult was being caught between two tragic situations. My husband and I started being treated for infertility around the same time that my father was diagnosed with cancer. It felt like I was losing my connection to both the past and the future. I tested with 23andMe looking for health information and ended up realizing how much potential existed for tracing a bigger family tree than I had imagined. I think this has been a way of trying to grasp my place in the universe.
by Larissa Loomes G2G6 Mach 1 (10.2k points)
I can imagine it would be really hard to feel your connection slipping away on both sides.  Genealogy is an amazing way to find your place in the universe, I think. I hope you've been able to get closer to finding yours :)
+21 votes
I loved fishing with my grandfather and hearing stories he told about his ancestors.  When I work on my genealogy now it always makes me think of him :)
by Keith Hathaway G2G6 Pilot (607k points)
That's awesome Keith. I feel the same sort of connection with my grandfather :)
+21 votes
Well, it was my mother-in-law indirectly.  She suffered a fall and a broken bone in her arm and couldn't move around well.  Since i was making less than my wife and was stronger, I quit the temp job I'd been on for a year and stayed ho,e woth Helen.  Since it wasn't full time care (just when she needed help moving around) I decided to take up studying my family trees and bought an early version of Family TreeMaker (which linked to at the time.)  After a couple of tries using at the library, I decided it was cheaper in terms of what my time was worth to Ancesgtry and that's what I've done since and I still do it since I can save my censuses, etc. in Family Tree Maker but eventually I may transition to linking directly to the sources online.
by Dave Dardinger G2G6 Pilot (410k points)
We have a lot of generous genealogists here but also a lot of generous family members who have stepped up to care for family members.    That's neat that that's when you got hooked. Were you able to talk to her about her family stories?
Well, she didn't like to talk a lot about family things.  Sometimes my wife could get her to talk, but though we're almost certain she married once before she married Bill Otto, she'd never talk about him or what his name was.  I think I know his name, but I haven't been able to trace him down.  Someday I'll ask a question here about it and see if someone can find him.  OTOH one of Helen's nephews was/is interested in genealogy and there was another earlier genealogist, Lily Ray, and she and Helen wold exchange letters which often had interesting tidbits in it.  I later got copies of a lot of Lily's research from her (Lily's) grand daughter, There is also a lady who married one of my wife's half nephews via Bill Otto's first marriage.  So while I didn't get tons of family help from Mary's mom, I have had a lot of help from other in-laws.
+23 votes
In my case it was lack of knowledge. Everything that came before my grandparents was very vague, and another generation back information was non existent from any family member. My parents are gone now, but I can surmise that it was a common shame of convict ancestors; something to be hidden from later generations. These days, however, to find a convict ancestor in ones family tree in Australia is treated as something to be celebrated.
by Paul Bech G2G6 Mach 7 (72.2k points)
Interesting how time changes perspective on things.  I have a few ancestors that my grandmother was so embarrassed about because of things they did but I was excited to learn about it.
+20 votes
Grandmother (Goode) Vickery . Since my earliest memories always told my sister & I that were were related to Magna Carta surety barons, Signers of D Of I, Kings & Queens. I always doubted her & thought she was just blowing smoke. She was right.

She was Leader of Eastern Star In Baldwinsville & Grampa (33 degree) was a leader in Freemasons.
by Anonymous Vickery G2G6 Pilot (241k points)
Are you the one who was able to confirm she was right? :)

What's Eastern Star?
Eastern Star is a female branch of Freemasonry.
Yes, I have worked on my tree for 25+ years now. I could not verify it until I started working here at wikitree! Sadly I am the only family genealogist. But I suit up & show up every day to wikitree, In spite of the weather LOL.
Hahahaha, I like your spirit John.
Go wikitree Team !
I see that John Vickery has already beat me to it....

Correction: Eastern Star is not quite a "female branch of Freemasonry".

See more here:

And the Freemasonry Project (Free Space Project) on WikiTree here:
I've been working on a large mason cemetery here in Indianapolis and been frequently using the categories of Freemasonry and Order of the Eastern Star for those interred there.
While doing my research I found quite a few of my ancestors who were masons,,,,,
Thanks for using those categories, Scott!

Let me know if there's anything I can help you out with.
That's great, Maggie! Again, let me know if there's anything I can help you with.
+22 votes
I could not understand why, as children, we were taking summer vacations all over Eastern Canada from Ontario all of the way to Nova Scotia.  Then one day we went to St. Lambert, Montreal where we met a family.  That was where my father was given a packet of information.  It was not until I was in my early twenties that my father handed that envelope over to me and told me that it was time for me to take over the research of our family.

I had just bought my first PC in 1989 and with I learnt about MS Excel, and entered in all of the information from the packet.  I year later I found a store that sold software, and I found FamilyTree.  I transferred the Excel data into the new software.  I was much easier to manage and had lots of other features which made the data entry more user friendly.  Then one day we had internet!  Boom!!  I was hooked.
by Sam Leggett G2G Crew (860 points)
Interesting! Had he just held onto it all that time without pursuing any of the history?
My dad always wanted to know and confirm the history and stories he had heard growing up in New Brunswick, Canada. I have always loved History; so was a likely candidate for him to discuss what he knw and what he wished he knew about family history. An aunt in Canada and a cousin in the USA both were acknowledged as family historians; but with work and family and the difficulty to garner necessary information, not much was found or confirmed. I retired in 2000 and dad passed in 2002. Having made a promise to him that I would research our family history, in 2009 I purchased Family Tree Maker and the rest is history! Twin grandchildren were born in 2002, and on one of many trips to visit them, our 3-year old grandson asked me questions about family; grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins; where they lived, how old they were when they died, etc.! Surprising, I know, at such a young age to want this information; but, he is a genius! So ... I also made a promise to him that I would find out as much as I could and share it with him, as well as other family members - my promises have been kept. I am hooked on ancestry. And, the information I have found is astounding! Royalty, many prominent French names, the fact that I am also Italian, Spanish, Irish, German, etc., what can I say? Will continue as long as I can. Next project? to print a book ...
That's really awesome!  I have a niece who started asking questions about family at a young age and I've been excited to have a budding genealogist in the family :)  I think it's great that you are planning on doing a book - a wonderful treasure for future generations.
+21 votes

A picture my mother an I found in the attic.  We did some research and found it was my great great grandfather

by Living Harris G2G6 Mach 2 (20.2k points)
You kind of look like him.  The picture definitely makes me want to know his story!
Still trying to find out more.  People in my family do not talk much.
+20 votes
My Mother-in-law got me interested in who came before me. She has paper documents of all of her family and just needed it put into a coherent order. She wanted my kids to know where they came from. In the process, I learned where I came from.

It's a never ending journey and I love it.

by Betty Fox G2G6 Pilot (169k points)
That's neat Betty. It's interesting to me how many people got started because someone in their family handed them a stack of papers to organize.
+22 votes
My cousin's daughter was getting married and wanted to use a family ring as her wedding ring. It was inscribed but the initials didn't mean anything to anyone in the family. After a great deal of searching, I found the ring's former owner, the second wife of a great-uncle. By then, I was hooked and have become the family historian. The young couple now have a little girl who will no doubt wear the ring one day and know quite a bit more about her family than her grandmother and I did four years ago.
by Laurie Cruthers G2G6 Pilot (148k points)
Aw, what a neat story, Laurie! And what a great family heirloom to pass on.
+22 votes
My Father took me out in the country ( Or as we called it down home.) and started showing me family homesteads and family cemeteries. That's what started it all. I just needed to know who these people were and what did they do, and how did they live.
by John Noel G2G6 Pilot (713k points)
I love cemeteries. I always wonder about the dash in a person's life.  You know, the tombstones say 1876 - 1942 but so much is said with just that dash!
I've had a lot of fun in cemeteries over the years. A cousin and I have cleared off maybe up to ten abandoned cemeteries. In one family cemetery we found my 3rd Great Grandfather's tombstone buried under a coyote den. It was broken in three places. In another abandoned cemetery I found my 3d Great Grandmother's homemade stone. It was overgrown and buried under debris. Up until I found her stone I always thought she died in childbirth. Sure enough she died nine days after her first child was born. One interesting thing about her stone was she died in october, and when they spelled it out, they wrote Oct on one line and ober on the next line.
+21 votes
My brother's eldest son is interested in family history and had information on my father's side but nothing on my mother's.  He asked my brother who passed it on to me since I am in charge of memory. I remembered everything that my mother told as I was growing up about her grandparents Lux, Fernandez, Otis and Saunders. I have been searching farther back and learning interesting things about ancestors who fought in the Civil War and Revolutionary War and countries of origin. I hope to find out more if possible.
by Keith Jorgensen G2G Crew (830 points)
It's great that you have that kind of memory! My dad is like that. He can pull out information and stories that other members of the family have long since forgotten.
+20 votes
I needed my mothers birth certificate, and knew very little about her, not even her year of birth, when i applied for it it triggered my interest....the rest is history.
by Living Naylor G2G Crew (800 points)
You just never know what will light the spark :)
How cool is that!
+19 votes
Interesting question. I spoke to my cousin Lynn at a meeting we were at and she told me of the work she had been doing on the Jefferies family in Brightlingsea. Fascinating stuff I though and decided that I should add to this, based on the family knowledge I had. Have been adding to the Jefferies line. A very interesting journey.

Have also been doing some work on my fathers family. His father was married twice as was his mother......

Its fascinating what you can find.......
by Chris Burrow G2G6 Pilot (182k points)
Very cool. What's your favorite thing you've found so far?
Its a case of finding things out that were once common knowledge. My dad knows very little about his family, many years later my uncle,  Albert Tyson, told him more about his family than his parents. So am finding out about connections I didn't know about. So I must have more relatives out there......

Albert Tyson was a police officer in Westmorland and served mainly in Kirkby Stephen, Westmorland, England. he retired in 1970.
+21 votes

          A Road trip with my brother. 

  A tale of a misappropriated cow.                                                         

and a Map of New Haven.

by Anne B G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
Ha! Well, that certainly sounds like a tale.
So did you find out who got the cow?
My ancestor swears it just wandered into his yard, and he was just keeping it safe.
You need to keep those cows safe. I don't care what it takes.Did he build a barn for her also or was he looking at building a bar-b-q pit.
Oh dear, (LOL) if he'd eaten her, he might have been hung on the spot, and I wouldn't exist. Poof!
+19 votes
A great aunt who had some fabulous old photos and could tell story like no other person I've ever known. Then: a genetic predisposition to a certain form of cancer. Needed to see how that came about.
by Bobbie Hall G2G6 Pilot (251k points)
Have DNA tests helped any with that?
It's a long story, but yes, though I wasn't tested.

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