Friday, May 1, 2009

Skeletons in the Closet

It doesn't take much family research to find skeletons in the closet. The great grandfather who died in a mental hospital in the 1920s; the great-great aunt who was a single parent due to a divorce in the early 1900s ("ho hum" today, but "OH MY!" then); and the distant cousin who committed suicide because his mother forced him to register as a conscientious objector in 1942. Once Pandora's box is open, who knows what I will find.

Genealogical research can be frustrating. There are the nonexistent ancestors who pop up on the computer screen because the census taker couldn't spell or the image is so blurred that the volunteer entering data adds a "D" instead of an "S" at the beginning of a family name transforming "Scott" into "Dott". It requires patience to locate a grandmother when Mae Belle might be spelled Mabel, May Bell, or even Maud. Is Uncle Will a William or maybe a Willard? There is also the problem of maiden names vs. married names. Just who did Aunt Grace marry?

The numbers are daunting. By the time I reach my great grandmother on my mother's side there is a total of more than 50 people not including the spouses and children of siblings. The web stretches out infinitely in all directions. Where do I stop? 

The rewards balance out the frustration. I now know the origin of the names B. Norman and Henrietta H. at the end of messages in my grandmother's post card collection. I can find the mining town where my great grandfather worked as a blacksmith. I feel like I know these people who were farmers and postal mistresses 100 years ago. It isn't about skeletons - it is about roots.  

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