Who knew my Great Grandfather born in 1867 had a scar on his abdomen or that his eyes were gray.
I started my business Genealogy by Rachel when I was 54. It was an outgrowth of my day and night obsession with the family tree I was building. It all started...when I was on a leave of absence from work... I thought it would keep me occupied while I was at home. That was about 5 or so years ago. I found out things about my family I had not known. A lot of things. I found my Maternal Grandfathers Dad and then his whole family. We never knew who or where the Clarks were from. It was a happy day for my Mom when I found Henry B Clark born in New Jersey. My Dad's favorite family history find was that he was the 1/2- 5th cousin once removed of Doc Holliday. I bought him a book of Doc Holliday, it is the best gift I have ever gotten him.
My uncle did not know his family past his Mom and Dad. So I researched his family and found him a lot of ancestors. Just by following clues, documents, and photos with names written on the back which had been hidden in a basement. In doing so, I realized what a great and profound affect that finding these things had on people. It was a rewarding feeling to be able to help people connect with their heritage and the folks they came from. I decided I had found a niche for myself. So for the next 3-4 years, before I started my company, I read everything genealogy. I joined the genealogical society's and association's. I found places to self study and take tests. I worked day and night to learn all I could. Then I started my company.
The thing I like best about this new occupation/avocation is that it changes people's lives to know their ancestors and where they came from. The documents are fun. Who knew my Great Grandfather born in 1867 had a scar on his abdomen or that his eyes were gray. Thanks to the draft registration records you can get a picture of someone who died long before you were born. I did not know that my ancestors were from the Netherlands or that one family of my ancestors were millionaires in the 1870's. (They were the ancestors over the hill in Canada. My direct line were farmers from Ireland. One brother struck it rich. The other farmed and loved farming.) These are the things I love best to bring to my clients. The fun stories of missed wealth and documents that make you realize that your ancestors were flesh and blood.
The thing that I like least is when I have to tell a client of sadness, murder in their family, or tell them something that will alter the way they think of themselves. Another thing I worry about is getting it right. I want to get it right. The twist and turns of family history are a little like a circus ride. You never know what is around the corner. Who you will find. Or worse yet, who you can't find. But I think it is all an experience. Something that makes lives richer and understanding of self more definitive. It is a learning experience and real lesson in history. The most important thing you find out is that the history you learned in school was written by your ancestors. They did not of course, know they were making history, as we do not know we are making our own history. That is what I love about my job. It is a living history that never ends, as a family tree never ends. I am happy to be just one part of the process, one piece of my family history, and it is my privilege to be able to bring that history to other families.
I can see why genealogists love their work. And, you point out perfectly why there are times where it is uncomfortable. You are among a top flight group of professionals who are sharing skills to help more genealogists get more business. We need this history found and documented. Fantastic work Rachel!
I so agree with you, Rachel! We are infinitely enriched by understanding who we are by means of understanding where we came from. Good story. What was your former profession, by the way?
I was a clinic station secretary, filled out forms for the doctors, and helped people find free or reduced medication, free clinics and government programs. Rachel
Yes, Rachel, discovering your family tree can be very exciting, but I believe it is a bit like a dry, dusty history book filled with names, dates, places and little more until you add the buds, flowers and foliage by discovering the personal stories behind each person. Personal historians work in the present day, gathering, orgaising and preserving the life stories for the future. Would that my ancestors from 1721 had preserved their stories instead of just being statistics!
Great story, Rachel. My avocation of the past 46 years has been genealogy. In fact, that has supplemented my teaching as we raised our family. My ancestors, too, come from The Netherlands on my mother's side, and thanks to the current technology and those who have preserved the records and currently index them, I have been able to trace most of my Netherlands ancestry back to the beginning of records in the 1500s. This, after the past three generations were unable to get past the mid to early 1800s. This has been the easiest research for me, while still trying to get back a few more generations on my Southern (United States) ancestors. It's also interesting to find their stories in court records, etc. Not a lot of detail to the stories, but the story line is there, none the less. I have been able to find some of the legacy they left though the stories are not complete by any means. It's a great passion to be involved in genealogy... and also in people's lives. Where did your ancestors come from in The Netherlands?
Hendrick Janszen, my 8th great grandfather, came from County of Leerdam, Princes Land in South Holland. The name Janszen was first Bastiaensen, then Janszen next it became many derivations of Cortright/Kortrycht and finally Courtright. I have an extremely fascinating genealogie of the Bastiaensen/Courtrights.
The Van Dorns are from Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands. The De Plankens are from Reusel de Mierden, Noord Brabant, Netherland. Though I have not thoroughly researched the De Plankens.