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.