Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Joys of Genealogy

I have been interested in genealogical research for the past fifteen years or so, ever since my dad became interested in the subject and wanted me to trace our family line as so many of his family members, including several uncles in their late 80's and early 90's, are still quite sharp and can help us greatly. But the project has been sitting on the proverbial back burner until this past winter.

Our local library advertised a genealogy class in December, and although I had often seen such classes on the large marquee next to New Releases, for some reason I felt the pull more strongly this time and found myself showing up for the Tuesday evening class that met just an hour before our monthly writers' group. Ken, a member of the San Diego Genealogical Society, led a few of us through the basics of researching through Ancestry.com and several other sources. And immediately, I was hooked on genealogy research.

It made sense, really. Research has always been my passion. I love unearthing new material, copying it down, organizing it, and then rewriting it clearly and concisely. I could research forever and never actually settle down to write the main work ... as seen with my theological project on liturgy and the evangelical church which I started nearly five years ago and continue researching. And, obviously despite my complaining, I do love teaching the MLA research method, even if grading the papers takes forever. So genealogical research and I were destined to meet and fall in love.

Ken mentioned his favorite software program, Roots Magic (see illustration above from the Roots Magic site) was coming out with a new fourth version which my parents purchased for me last month. And I have really enjoyed plugging my research into it -- it's all so cool! I've only had access to the software for a month and have been rather overwhelmed with MLA student conferences and now with grading them, so I haven't had as much time to enter information as I would like. That's my plan for the summer ... lots of research, sourcing, and data entry. And from that data I'll be able to trace family trees, lineages, make a separate page for each family member, and even collate all the material into book form. Cool!

Ancestry.com is a great site, but it costs $15 each month to access its wonderful depths. However, the San Diego County Library system provides a free (limited) library version which must be accessed from their own computers; from this source I have gained the vast majority of information on occasional Saturday visits. But I also accessed the LDS genealogy site in the last month from home and was delighted to find a family tree already completed of my father's family which we always assumed was English. I found out, however, that the first Lower (pronounced Lauer), a Michael Lower, came to the colonies before the American Revolution from Germany. He was born in 1732 in Zweibrucken (wish I knew how to make umlauts work!) but married in Pennsylvania in 1750, so he obviously emigrated sometime between those dates. My dad was flabbergasted and amazed.

My parents will be celebrating their 45th anniversary later this month, and we'll have a good number of extended family members joining us for the party. At least one of them is interested in genealogy, so I hope to glean more information as well as share what I've found. And I also want to be able to demonstrate what I have discovered about our family to whomever may be interested. It's just such a great opportunity, but I have so much to pull together before the party on June 27!

I have barely scraped the surface of my genealogical research and of Roots Magic (can't wait to start scanning in photos and really adding in-depth material), but I think I know what I will be doing with a sizable chunk of my summer "free" time.

So tonight it's off to our genealogy class to learn even more about research methods and documentation! Be still, my heart....

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