I have to say there is something incredibly rewarding with helping someone start on their family tree. I’ve watched and participated in helping a few beginners to the world of genealogy, and these newcomers have taught me a few lessons. To watch them sit down and pen down their grandparents into an otherwise blank family tree made me realize just how small my family tree was when I started. The awe and wonder over a list of a few hundred ancestors are inspiring when I think lazily of doing some work on one of my 2000 forebearers. The recollection of barely-remembered family legends…
Starting from you, from your date of birth and as-yet-unknown date of death, at some point you realized that you know your history. Sure, maybe not all of it. Sure, maybe you ran into a brick wall with immigration papers, criminals, indentured servants, or indigenous peoples, but you know… it’s that moment when you start having a conversation with another genealogy enthusiast and can whip the story of how that early American settler saved that one Indian from the raging band of Mohawks right out of your hip pocket to show that, yes, you are American from way back when or any other of a dozen stories which demonstrate the blood which begat blood which begat… you.
Perhaps helping the newbies out makes us look back on our own journey, remember the time before we realized it was all connected., and recall that naive joy of discovering that first someone in the family tree who has their own wikipedia.com page.
Maybe you don’t have a friend you can con into this crazy hobby. Maybe your relatives start glazing over when you launch into impromptu history lectures on the Jacobite Rebellion, Norman Invasion, or English monarchy drama and how it relates to a (multi-x) grandparent. But you have trod the side roads and back paths of history tracing the steps of your ancestors and that is something truly incredible. So look back to the beginning of your journey. Remember the blank slate you started with and look at all the details and dates you’ve built since. Whether your family tree is 28 or 2,800, know that your history is valuable to you, and the starry-eyed optimism of a beginner reveals the hope of things you have accomplished and even the feats you have yet to achieve.
And that’s the beautiful thing of emerging from the soil as a sapling in this journey of trees and branches… it doesn’t matter how tall you get – you’re still reaching for the sky! There are so many details you have yet to find, so many stories yet to uncover. If you don’t find it, someone else might, and I bet they’ll upload to a genealogy website it soon. Keep the faith, adventurer, and carry on!