Sunday, October 23, 2011

I Found You

I knew when I found my great-grandfather Harlston Perrin Moore.

It happened about five or six weeks after I first became intrigued about what I could find online on my ancestors. Until that point, I just barely knew the names of my grandparents; I knew nothing else about my ancestors except for a couple of comments and stories I had heard from my parents.

There was no death of a close relative to jar/inspire/scare me into considering family research. As a matter of fact, both of my parents and all but one of my aunts and uncles had already passed away. Not even that sad fact could force me to realize how important it was to learn about my family’s history. Though I do love the “detective experience” rush, it was the shock of the close personal connection I felt that cemented the deal. The “find” was a burst of fireworks, but the relationship was no less intense for being long-lasting. If you think that this sounds like falling in love, it was a little bit like that.

It wasn’t just putting cousin bait out there that prompted me to start blogging about genealogy; it was that I just had to share this incredible experience with others who understood, really understood, what it feels like to find a previously unknown ancestor. And when Lynn Palermo issued the challenge (“The Moment You Knew”) at The Armchair Genealogist to identify the moment when I knew that I had to research my family history, I had to respond (despite the fact that I have written about this before in “The Happy Dance: Getting Hooked on Genealogy”).

The odd thing was, the experience was more intense for some ancestors than others. Other genea-bloggers have written about this phenomenon. In my experience, it was not necessarily that I identified more with some ancestors than with others. It was that I felt a particular claim to an ancestor because I had “found” that ancestor - found in the sense that none of the relatives I knew while I was growing up knew this ancestor, and any distant cousins who did know of this ancestor’s existence did not know of his or her connection to my family. If I did find a known ancestor but learned new information, then I felt that much closer. And I feel close to my “dead-end branch” ancestors as well, because I intend to find their families.

From the brief flush of discovery to the more sustained feeling of connection, the experience continues to be the lure that will keep me looking for ancestors until my fingers are too arthritic to type, my eyes are to clouded to make out those old documents, and my mind is too mushy to put the genealogical evidence together.


  1. You have put into words what I've felt so many times. The shock of the close personal connection and the deep abiding respect and appreciation for my ancestors and their lives has been amazing.

    I so know what you mean by the experience being more intense for some than others. A photo will really send me to the ends of the earth for their life story.

    Great post and I'm with you...let's keep looking til the mush-mind sets in...I hope to have a decendent to take over by about you?

  2. Greta, your post made me stop and think. I never consider my self a genealogist, but I know that feeling of which your wrote. For me, it is when I gather enough enformation that I begin toe "flesh out" the bare bones of my research --- that's when that ancestor, or even an ancestors's friend become real to me --- like a newly found friend. Thanks for putting words to the feeling.

  3. CTG - I am working on my older daughter; she is somewhat interested already but busy with college studies. However, after she finishes college and graduate school, I'm going to try to lure her into researching with me.

    Joan - I wish that I had your gift for bringing people alive on the page, because I think that would be a way I could do justice to the ancestors that I become attached to.

    dee - So glad to know someone else feels the same way and with the same intensity!

  4. What every one else has already said, ditto the feeling here. Great post. My kids are young but I am hoping I can get my oldest to get into family history. He seems open to it.