We are here because of our grandparents, and their grandparents, and those in between and who came before. They are an integral part of our personal history, why we are where we are and came to be…
A Grandchild’s Curiosity
Recently, our four-year-old granddaughter asked to plant flowers for her MomMom. Together, we chose a perennial plant, planted it, and watered it at her great-grandmother’s grave. The next time, both granddaughters visited we took them to the grave where they shared in watering the plant. Kaitlin had questions about her grandfathers and the others who were also there. She was very interested in the old stones with the very old dates on them. Our church and its surrounding cemetery dates back to the 1600’s.
Researching the Family Tree
I have been researching our family’s trees for over 20 years now, ever since my Aunt gave me a family bible dated 1777 . The names, births, marriages, and deaths gave me a starting point to search my family’s lineage. With the loss of my mother when I was just 18 and my father just one week before my youngest child was born – the only grandson – I wanted to learn more about their families. I wanted to desperately to hold onto their memory, I wanted my children to know who their grandparents were. Perhaps this really stems from my strong desire to not be forgotten after I have passed.
My mother is buried in a cemetery almost 2 hours away in a plot with her parents and next to her paternal grandparents. So far away…but that is where my father had told me she would have wanted to be. I was too young and emotional at the time to think about the difficulty of being able to visit her grave in the years to come.
Not to be forgotten…how many other descendants have forgotten those that have passed, neglected to visit those that came before…or even interested in who they were. They are a part of us, they should not be forgotten.
As the family tree grows, so does our history. This is an interesting activity to involve grandchildren in once they reach the age where their curiosity is tweaked. Kaitlin is nine now and is fascinated by the dates on the cemetery headstones. I’ve taken her with me when I go exploring old cemeteries.
Free Genealogy Databases
There are free databases online that have helped me find where ancestors were laid to rest. It is a small world. My son lives just minutes from where his 4th gr-grandparents and 3rd gr-grandparents (father’s side) are buried in a small colonial family cemetery. My oldest daughter lives just minutes from three cemeteries where other ancestors of my husband’s were laid to rest. This summer, we also found a 3rd-gr-grandfather of my husband’s in a cemetery that is well known because of the church stood there during the Battle of Monmouth during the Revolutionary War. The next cemetery is one located in the same town as my grandchildren…again my husband’s…but it is exciting because it is the farthest back I can trace the his family’s surname. We never knew we were so close…we’ve driven by the cemetery many times.
The findings are very interesting and sometimes surprising…Salem Witch Trial participants, founders of a Connecticut town, sea captains, English royalty, poet, descended from a woman who is part of our county’s history…. It has become my personal project to record the resting locations of our ancestors so they will never be forgotten…we must not forget for we carry a part of them within us…a tradition that should be carried down through the generations…so we shall not be forgotten.
Talk about your family tree with your grandchildren. Starting with the young ones when they ask questions, giving them bits and pieces for their attention won’t last. As they become older with more understanding and a longer attention span, connect your family’s history with the history they are learning in school. Research the times, life style, clothing, games, hardships, etc., of the period so you can connect it to what they know when you discuss with them. Visit places where your ancestors have lived…and the cemeteries, too. Call the cemetery office ahead of time to find the grave locations; ask if they have a map. You may find some graves online using FindAGrave.com and DistantCousin.com. You could also search for the names online and they might appear in a cemetery database or genealogy website of someone else who has researched that family line. FamilySearch.org has free databases including the US 1880 census. Ancestry.com has a free two-week trial. (I’ve used it several times.) There are also forums where you can post queries for free. If you have any questions on getting started researching your family tree, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Also, their newest version of Family Tree Maker is wonderful. I’ve tried the older versions but this one is the best so far. Along with the Ancestry.com membership, it is so easy to get access to their thousands of databases and import the information into your family tree database. You can create trees, look at relationships, add photos, create books, and much more. There is a version for both MAC and for PC.