One Thousand Words on the Past

Once again Heather, creator of the One Thousand Words Project, got me into another activity. During the winter, she had used the website ancestry.com and found it really interesting. We both love the television show Who Do You Think You Are and talked quite a bit about the show throughout the season and then, the ancestry.com site. One of my plans for the summer, during my vacation, was to subscribe to ancestry.com and start playing around.

Well, I started my subscription to the site last night and I don’t think I moved off of my chair for two or three hours! Once I started, I quickly called my mom because her side of the family is huge and I wanted to get as much info into the site as possible to help narrow down the searches. My grandmother’s maiden name is Esposito which is like Smith but for Italians, so there are a lot of them! And, because they are immigrants with handwritten records, the spelling of the names changes sometimes.

So far, on my mom’s side, I’ve gotten back to my great, great grandparents. Next week I’ll be calling one of my relatives, a great aunt on my mom’s side, who will be able to help me fill in some of the blanks, names, and dates. My grandmother (my great aunt’s sister) was one of 12 kids – it’s a big Italian family!

My mom also had some information from my dad’s side of the family. My grandmother (my dad’s mom) gave my mom a book of names and dates that she had written down about family members. After digging out the book, my mom was able to give me a ton of names. I was able to get back to one set of great, great grandparents on that side. I have also contacted a cousin on that side of the family, who I hope will be able to work with her mom to help me fill in some of the missing information that I have for relatives.

The ancestry.com site is full of cool documents and information. I love being able to see the census records, written in the original handwriting. These scanned in documents are like a window to the past. There are also scanned in photos that people have uploaded to the site. So when you put in a name, if there are photos with the same name, they are marked as a possible hint or link. You can then check them out to see if it is a match. It looks like you can mark your photos as private so that the whole world can’t see them or you can make them public. I have already scanned in the wedding photo of my grandmother that also has her parents and my grandfather‘s parents in it.

As I’ve been using the site, I feel like I’m a detective. I love searching through the records, seeing if anything matches up, and then discovering a connection! It is so much fun to scour the old records, look at lists of siblings and children and then realize you are looking at a relative! I can tell that this site is going to keep me up way too late at night and keep me from getting my daily chores done.

While I was poking around on the site it started me thinking about what makes researching our past so interesting? Is it creating a family tree with a list of names or is it thinking about those stories that might accompany those names? For me I really want to know the stories behind the people.

My mom’s side of the family came from Italy, her grandfather and grandmother (on both sides). I wonder what these Italian immigrants were thinking as  they rode over on the boat from Italy. Were they scared? Were they excited? Were they sad to leave family and friends? Then what did they think once they arrived? My dad’s side came from Ireland and Sweden. I don’t know  as much about that side of the family, but I’m looking forward to finding out as much as I can.

I try to put myself in their shoes and think how scared I would have been, thinking about a new life in a country where I didn’t know anyone and didn’t speak the language. In high school, I struggled learning French. Learning languages is not my strong suit. How would I have done if I had been one of my ancestors, coming  to a new country and being immersed in a new language. I think I would have struggled a lot!

I work in a school where we have many immigrants and refugees from a wide variety of countries. It is not unusual to have 7 or 8 languages spoken in my little Vermont classroom. I often think of my ancestors coming to a new country as I work with my students.

I feel like this post reads like an advertisement for ancestry.com. I don’t mean for it to sound like that, it’s just that I’ve been having so much fun with it. I have to pull myself off for a bit and get some chores down and get ready for the tutoring that I have scheduled for tomorrow. I do put the computer down for a bit, put in a load of laundry, do a few dishes… but before I know it, I’m pulled back onto the computer because I thought of something else to look up.

I highly recommend treating yourself to ancestry.com if you are at all interested in your family tree. However, if you have an addictive personality, get ready before you start. Set aside plenty of time and have a few meals prepared that you can just quickly heat up because you won’t want to stop once you start! Have fun and good luck researching your family. Heather, do not get me hooked on anything else – I don’t have time for anything else!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: