Question of the Week: How did you catch the genealogy bug?

+19 votes

What got you started in family history? How'd you catch the genealogy bug?

PS - Reshare the image on Facebook and get your family and friends talking. 

in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (1.7m points)
edited by Eowyn Walker
I caught it after visiting relatives in Galway Ireland.I wanted to know more and more about all my ancestors.
I caught it in college when I had to do some local history work. Found out my great-grandfather founded the first paid fire department in Plattsburgh and I had to know more!
My aunt from Louisiana and I were talking about the Brewton family tree and met some of the relatives at the family reunion and learned a lot while I was at the family reunion. I'm still working on my family tree as we speak.
I think the seeds were sown in midday school when we were given the task of doing a family tree. I only had my folks to rely on. That’s all on our family tree. After my mother died in 2013 I decided to check out her work on our family tree on I was appalled to see there was very little headway. I believe my mother’s “work” consisted of conversations with other people who worked pretty much the same. She was not computer savvy.  That was when I assumed the cloak of the “family historian.” Sadly, I have not been able to make any headway on my original lines, there are too many brick walls. But I went further than my mother could be imagined on many of the other lines. Then one day I found WikiTree. It’s been my “other home”. Ever since finding WikiTree, most everyone I talk to is my cousin!
After I took not one, not two but three Ancestry DNA tests. Now I'm curious where all my ancestors came from and why I am where I am, now.

48 Answers

+14 votes
Honestly I don't remember how I caught the bug but it infested itself deeply in my genes. I seem to remember my older brother sending me his gedcom file of the ancestors he had found. Of course, I wanted to outdo my brother on finding our clan so I looked at his work and dug deeper. The root of the problem (pun intended) was my mother's father. Cletus Walter Beckler married my grandmother Mary Elizabeth Shirah. Well they had a daughter (my mother) and two years later Cletus died. Many stories were handed down about grandma and grandpa. One story indicated that grandma was unaccepted by grandpa's parents. Turns out that was completely true. Cletus was descended from a gold coin manufacturer and grammy was descended from a pauper. Oil and water I guess. My older brother was able to find the marriage record of Cletus but not his burial place. After six months of digging I decided to call the Bechtler family cemetery. Turns out that Cletus was buried in the same plot as a two year old boy. To save money would be my guess. The caretaker at the cemetery verified that that was the case and viola, grandpa is found. Let's just say after that I was foaming at the mouth to find more ancestors, cousins, aunties, etc. My tree is now about 3,000 souls and counting and there's no end in sight. I've met many very helpful and nice people in the journey. Some of my family is white, some are black, some are hispanic, some are Welsh, some are Irish, some are crazy, some are criminals, and some are just plain plain. I am the melting pot and proud of it.
by Betty Fox G2G6 Pilot (161k points)
+14 votes
I caught it in junior high school when we were asked to build a family tree for a school project. I loved the concept and wanted more information than my parents wanted to give me. (That's a nice way to say this quest of mine became a bit of a family fight ... I'll spare you.) One of the things I remember my Mom saying that shut me up about it at the time to keep the peace was the reason to not do the research was because you didn't know what you may find. (i.e. If you find something you don't like or know how to deal with - or that your ancestor didn't want you to know - what THEN? Too late - you found something and likely won't be able to forget.) Well, that's just not me and how I operate.

That was quite a while ago. I was born in the early/mid 60s. When the DNA tests became widely accessible to the general public, with our mother deceased and our father still living my brother and I and Dad submitted samples to get whatever results the testing companies could provide. I believe we tested ~2003 or so.

We are from a very small family, not just in that it is "just" my brother and me but our mom was an only child and her mom was an only child. Our dad has a brother, but he did not have children. Our father's parents were each only children, as far as our dad knows. Our dad emigrated from post-WWII Europe ... if there was family to meet, it just didn't really happen ...

So, I have many puzzles so solve. I see lots of genetic matches on the various platforms at possible 4th or more distant relation. Connecting the dots is hard. We have not even been able to reliably sort Dad's paternal side from his maternal side due to the relatively small population of genetic matches who exist. We'll keep at it!

Another aspect that is interesting to me to try to research is my maternal line. I chose not to have children. But the first time I felt a bit of regret at this decision was when I realized I'm from the as yet under-represented Z1a mtDNA. Silly, perhaps ... Had I known, maybe I would have ensured there'd be another Z1a offspring ...

Honestly, I enjoy research so much that it is nearly equivalently gratifying for me to research a line nowhere near one of mine as it is to research my own. So, WikiTree is a great place for me.

I've got the genealogy bug in a big way now, and expect I'll continue to have it as long as I'm capable of operating a laptop or its equivalent.
by Susan Keil G2G6 Mach 5 (56.0k points)
edited by Susan Keil
I got interested in both my families, paternal first, because my dad's brother had a vinyl-covered study done in 1986...500 copies.  I'm so embarrassed to know that this travesty is out there.  There's 5-digit years and wrong words...obviously not proofed between an out-of-town printer and the certified genealogist that gathered the information.  Words like contacted for contracted, reconnaisance not recognizance.  The CG did it the old-fashioned way by telephone and writing letters.

I majored in mass communications in college and I love to read and write and proof, to make sure you don't say more than you need to.  My parents and paternal family read it and thought it was a travesty.  Then comes me!  I decided I was going to read all 200+ pages.  Of course there are people who walked into the sunset...surnames are misspelled, etc.

This was in the late 1990s,  I have been at it since then off and on, and plan to have a book printed. I have stories that could fill many of the weekly subjects, with 2 that are my favorites.

I would love to go to Redruth, Cornwall.  The life of a miner is interesting.  My family came in 1860, shortly before the Civil War.  I decided to include a time line of local, national, and family important dates.

There are no more people left of any previous  generations.  My 3 siblings  and I are the seniors now...all in the late 60's.  None of them show any interest in continuing the story.  If I go to a family function, I will tell an interesting story and they get excited and ask questions.
+16 votes
In a previous post I related how I first became interested - through a letter to my Dad asking about his family. What really set my course was a number of years after that, I signed up for a class at our small YWCA (small town). One of the first exercises was to order a marriage record from a court house. I ordered the record for my maternal grandparents, included a SASE and a check for $3.00. In return mail came the copy.......And THE ORIGINAL. It had never been picked up. That really set the hook for me. I later obtained the originals for most of my grandmother's siblings and was able to pass each along to descendants.

As a side note, the instructor for that class and I became good friends and still are to this day - almost 40 years later!!
by Virginia Fields G2G6 Pilot (613k points)
Interesting that you still talk with the instructor after all of these years. It seems to be a common reason for a lot of people that a school assignment was the initial reason. That is so strange to receive the original after all of those years. I bet the people in the records office were shocked to see the original in the files.
Dean --- what happened was that the clerk who opened my request letter and saw the date of the marriage - 1906 - knew that there were old original records in the courthouse basement. So, bless her, she went there and retrieved the original. On my next trip to that town, I went to the courthouse with the list of my grandmother's siblings. The young lady who I presented it to was horrified when I told her the originals might be in the basement. I then gave her the name of the previous clerk, who was out at the time. So, I left the list and told them I would be there for a week. About four or five days later I received a call that my records were ready. And, they had found originals going back to 1881, my grandmother's oldest sister. My great-grandfather had written a note giving his permission for her to marry. With an experience like this, I think anyone would be hooked for life!!!
+16 votes
I have already been interested in history, listening to and talking with my grandparents when they were still alive was always interesting. It wasn't until about 5 years ago that I started to seriously begin doing research and tracking my ancestors. I think it is very important to keep this information for the younger and future generations to understand who they are and were they come from. Not having the ability to listen to the old stories or see the old pictures is becoming a lost relic in our society. Social media is great, however it is also causing problems when it comes to the younger generations learning about their ancestors. They are too busy with their faces in phones and games. Put them down and talk to your grandparents or great-grandparents, ask questions about their childhood or their grandparents. Learn something new about your family.
by Dean Anderson G2G6 Pilot (441k points)
+15 votes
Aside from my grandparents sharing stories and taking me to Cemeteries, it was my grandmother’s sister’s DAR application that really hooked me.

(Turns out that Aunt Frankie’s line was wrong. We are descended from a first cousin of the patriot named in the app. Same time, same name.
by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (2.1m points)
+16 votes
I caught it after a trip to Scotland and decided I needed to learn about the ancestors who came from there. One of my aunts had been doing genealogy for a while showed me a printed genealogy that was done in the 1940s about my Rev War ancestor who was supposedly Captain in the Black Watch. So I had to learn more. and more and more... My aunt did warn me that the genealogy wasn't sourced and she had found errors. I've been at it ever since. Even proved, gravestone to the contrary, that the ancestor did indeed serve in the 47th Highlanders but was a lowly private when he mustered out.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (415k points)
+16 votes
My mother had to do a family report when in sixth or seventh grade, mind you this was between 1935-1940.  I read this when I was about 12 and it was about people I never met.  It peaked my interest so much that I started this journey in my early 20's.  Mind you, way before computers and way before the internet. I wrote letters to many county offices to find records! My dad said he didn't have many relatives.  WRONG! My grandfather moved to a different state to marry my grandmother and lost touch with most of his extended family. I found them, lol

One family reunion my mother received a copy of a genealogy booklet from her second cousin.  His parents went to the Netherlands and did research there and the cousin compiled the information.  Some was accurate, some wasn't as they had no clue how or where to look.  Reading this piqued my interest and I jumped off the bridge.

I had to travel to Philadelphia for a medical procedure and while waiting I went to several libraries there to find information direct from the source about the paternal sides arrival in this country.

I have communicated with so many relatives online and found so much information! One family member mentioned that my dad's family has sand in its shoes from so much traveling.

It's a never ending project, and DNA tests have added more questions and not enough answers.
by Laura Nixon G2G6 (8.1k points)
+15 votes
Genealogy projects for school children are frowned upon now, but back in 1962, when I was in 3rd grade, it was not. I did a booklet with basics of my ancestors and their traits and I was hooked! I still have that little booklet.
by Nelda Spires G2G6 Pilot (301k points)
+14 votes
I always loved listening to stories about family.  In High School I became involved in the the History club where we visited alot of cemeteries and it fascinated me.  I didn't really get involved researching until 2012 but even then only sporadically.  It wasn't until my daughter had her DNA tested that I became super interested and caught the genealogy bug!  Then I had to have my DNA tested and my sister's DNA tested.
by Rhonda Zimmerman G2G6 Pilot (197k points)
+14 votes
When I was in high school studying history, specifically the American Civil War, my grandmother gave me letters that were written by her father to his aunt while he was in the Stonewall Brigade of the Virginia Infantry. Later I found that her sister, my great-aunt, was a genealogist and historian of Virginia and had written a book about some of our early ancestors who were colonists, PETER JONES AND RICHARD JONES GENEALOGIES. So it must be in my blood.... or genetics.
+13 votes
In 2010, my mother explained to me I would eventually be responsible for managing the CD in a Scanton, Arkansas, bank that contributed to the maintenance of the nearby Plunkett cemetery.  There are slightly under 100 graves there.   I only knew my grandmother's parents and siblings were buried there. I asked  "who are these other people".... The die was cast.

Fortunately,  this happened shortly after I retired;  otherwise I might have become a genealogist or perhaps detective.  But there's not doubt I have "the bug".
by Peggy McReynolds G2G6 Pilot (426k points)
+13 votes
In the late 1970s/early 1980s, I was at an Arthur Treachers Fish & Chips and told my mother I liked the name Arthur.  She let me know that was my middle name and that I was named for my great grandfather who was in turn named for King Arthur.  In 1986, the centennial of the Statue of Liberty was being celebrated and people were talking about their first American families.  I told my mother I wanted to know who our first families were.  And that began the quest.  By 1996, I had a website up with all my research, which continues to be updated today.
+17 votes

It was 18 years ago I started up, I was annoyed about my my mother would never tell about her family that came from China, I had a very good friend her cousin was and expert In Genealogy and he was very helpful to me, but finding my family in China was a hard way. A man who then worked at ScotlandsPeople told me about documents held by the National Records of Scotland and the UK National Archives at Kew in London.I managed to find my family from China. I am forever grateful to him. 

I love genealogy and find it very addictive so little by little I manage to found my family from China, I got hold of my great grandfathers from Scotland that had emigrated to shanghai testament where he left every thing to his wife my great grandmother who was Chinese, 

by Susan Laursen G2G Astronaut (2.8m points)
edited by Susan Laursen
+14 votes
It all started when I was young. I remember listening to different family members telling stories. About different relatives that passed on. Or just hearing stories about where our family members came from. Also hearing wild claims about possible ancestors that may or may not be true. It just soaked my curiosity. I didn't start looking in to it until recently.
by Paul Kreutz G2G6 Mach 5 (55.7k points)
+14 votes
I think for me it probably started in 8th Grade Social Studies class, when we had to do our family tree.  I remember feeling like mine was inadequate because some of my classmates had trees that went back to the Mayflower, Revolutionary War etc.  But that was before the internet was widely available. I don't think my hometown library got its little Family History Research Room until after I had graduated High School and no one in my family at that time was remotely interested in spending the time or money to request copies of all the documents I'd need.   So it wasn't until my Grandpa Schmeeckle died, followed by my Great Aunt Euvah on my Dad's side of the family,  and repositories and government archives became more accessible via the internet, that I seriously caught the family research bug.

My Grandpa had always wanted to complete his family tree but never got around to it.  He was partially blind, so after his best friend passed away, and I got my driver's license, I used to drive him around.  He'd show me where my ancestors were buried and where they lived and where they farmed and the places and people he knew. I can still find all the old extinct settlements and building foundations.  I just wish I had been smarter when I was a teenager and written down more of the memories he shared with me.  

I went to college, minored in History majored in Criminal Justice and Grandpa died in 2000 a few short years after I graduated college.  He left me all of the family documents. I decided I was going to fulfill his dream of completing his family tree.  The biggest challenge was finding his mother's family and his biological grandmother who had died about decade before he was born.  Of course later on I ran into some thicker brick walls that I still haven't managed to tear down yet.  

The budding Historian got me roaming though the oldest sections of local cemeteries with a camera and wondering about both my pioneer ancestors and other pioneer families.  Next I found myself collecting a copy of every local history book, centennial book and every biography and auto biography I could get my hands on. My interests started seriously straying well beyond the confines of my own family tree about 5 or 6 years ago.

 I've been at it 19 years now and I still love the mysteries, I still love the challenges.  I work on both my own tree and numerous unrelated projects.  I have considered going back to school and making a career out of it so I can justify committing more of my time to research. I would love to get my Masters in History as well as become a Forensic Genealogist someday.
by Sondra Marshall G2G6 Mach 2 (29.3k points)
+12 votes
I first caught the genealogy bug as a young adult while discussing my father's and mother's Canadian history! He always wanted to know if we are directly related to Abraham Martin of the Plains of Abraham fame. In my research, I have found Abraham to be a distant relation. However, the Martin surname in my family goes back to the first ancestor in the Canadian line, Barnabe and his son, Rene. He also wanted to know if we were related to Ste. Therese Liseaux. She had the surname Martin also and was born and lived in the same area of France as my Father's forebears! I have hit many brick walls in this regard so far. And lastly, he wanted to know if the family lore about Indian iner-marriage on his mother's, Collette, side of the tree was true. Yes, there is Indian (MicMac) ancestry on both sides of my family tree!

When they both passed in early 2000's, I inherited their pictures, correspondence and documents, etc. which have helped me in my research. I also remember hearing them talk of their childhoods in Canada, etc. I also spent my seventh year summer vacation in Canada with my mother and two sisters where I met my paternal grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins on both sides of the family!

Our grandson, who has just graduated high school, was also interested in family history at the age of THREE! and my father's sister, Nora, was the family historian until she passed in 1978.

I have found so many ancestors, even many direct greats who were European Royalty. It has become my obsession and also my grandson's, whenever he has the time to peruse our family tree due to his studies.

I love WikiTree ...
+12 votes

My mother told me that her ancestors were blue blooded, on her fathers side, as a child I thought yeah that's nice, and thought no more about it. When I was about 20 years old, doing a tour of one of our older suburbs, I came across a huge house that was once owned by my relatives. I decide then to find out more about my mother's blue blooded ancestors. I ignored my fathers working class ancestors, they were miners. I ignored my mother's mother family they were farmers. In my defence it is easier to research famous and titled relatives and ancestors than illiterate tenant farmers in Ireland. (still have no luck tracking them past the 1850's). Forty years later, I still have had very little luck with my father's family, I can't even get past my grandmother, my Scottish ancestors, no official records but I do have a letter written in the late 1800's, with pages of relatives born, married and died back to 1600, I have to believe that it is fairly accurate. 

by Anonymous Anonymous G2G6 Mach 3 (32.3k points)
+11 votes
We went to a family reunion with my grandfather in 1989. His father had been widowed three times and he had children with each of his 3 wives. At the reunion a cousins and I did a massive family tree on poster board to figure out how we were related.

I took the poster board home and bought Broderbund's Family  tree maker and entered all the tree and then started researching. On my mom's side, my grandmother was one of 17 kids so that was the second project.
+10 votes

Melanie Paul infected me with her enthusiasmheart

by Sharon Weekes G2G6 Pilot (128k points)
+9 votes
My infection came relatively recently, I guess--only about five years ago. We were planning a car trip that would take us through the area where my grandparents lived and I decided I wanted to visit their graves. I thought I remembered where they were buried, but I couldn't find them. Looking online for help, I came across Find A Grave, which did have them listed, but in the wrong cemetery! There was a confusion of two cemeteries with similar names. Eventually I got that corrected, but somewhere in the course of figuring out that puzzle, I caught the bug!
by John Hodson G2G6 Mach 1 (12.0k points)

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