Monday, July 26, 2010

All in the Family

Lately I've been spending too much time on Having played with it for a couple of weeks now, I've mostly figured out what I'm doing. I've certainly learned an awful lot about my family I never knew before.

By far, the most interesting information comes from the U.S. Census. You can see where a person lived (county and state), who lived with them, each person's age, and the relation of each individual to the head of the household. Knowing where a person was every ten years makes it easier to track down births, marriages and deaths.

Nothing is easy. Things you would expect to remain constant over time, like names and birthdays, change with each new census. I've run into six different spellings of my last name--all referring to the same person.

It's easy to make mistakes. Making a mistake early renders the rest essentially worthless. I've discovered several and am now in the process of working my way back through to make sure the connections I've made are correct. It's tedious stuff. My tree now has more than 600 people in it.

I'm 95 percent sure of the identity and significant dates for all four of my grandparents. My paternal grandfather was born in either 1885 or 1891. The 1890 Census was destroyed in a fire or I could verify one or the other. I'm inclined to believe it was 1885 but there are a lot of sources suggesting it could have been 1891.

I'm about 85 percent sure of the identity of all eight great grandparents. One of the eight is a question mark. It's not a complete dead-end. Based on Census records around the time of the birth, I suspect one of three sons was the father but will never know for sure.

I've got first and last names for all but one of my 16 great, great grandparents. Three of the 16 were born in Ireland. The rest were born in and around Central and Southeastern Kentucky. Some owned slaves. Some worked as laborers and servants.

On Dad's side of the family, I have first and last names for 11 of 16 great, great, great grandparents. They date back to 1803 and were all born in the same parts of Kentucky. On Mom's side, I have only found 5 of the 16. Those I've found were all born in Kentucky. Most of the rest were born in Ireland.

When I started my research, I knew very little about my grandparents and nothing about prior generations. I've learned a lot about the people I grew up with, too. I'm proud of my Kentucky roots and curious about the kinds of lives my ancestors lived.

I'm not ashamed to have discovered an illegitimate birth or two in my family tree. Such details don't mean all that much in the overall scheme of things. Unless of course you're the queen or something. But me, I'm just...

The Crotchety Old Man

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