I have been down the rabbit hole of genealogy for the last two weeks.
My biggest weak point with genealogy is that I poke around here and there, as I have time. I don’t have a regular focused time to work on the genealogy piece. So, I dive in and then I back up and then, several months or a year later, I dive back in again.
So, here I am in the thick of it again.
If you know something about genealogy, you might categorize some of the things I talk about today as rookie moves. I will admit, I am likely the most inconsistent person out there looking into their genealogy. I have dipped my pinky toe in and out of genealogy for about 11 years. And, truly, in 11 years. I don’t feel like I have gotten any further than my pinky toe. But, I know I have. It’s just that when I open the door to a new person, sometimes it gives me so many other people to think about! And then I have to take a break because I have other things tugging at my time.
It is only recently that I have thought about the extended family in a really big way. When I was a kid, I hung out a lot with my first cousins. And then, as family things often happen, there were some family disagreements and deaths and then I went away to college and, essentially, never moved back. I got married and we lived in Nebraska, nearer to my husband’s family. Then we moved a few times more. And, I was so busy doing life with my husband and kids that I didn’t really wonder about who was beyond that. Through the years, though, I have had some contact with second cousins on one side and a lot of contact with second cousins on another side. Sprinkle in an aunt and uncle and first cousins and, there you have it. It’s a bit of a mish mash. And for no great reason other than life has a way of moving you in a direction.
So, as it is in genealogy research, one thing leads to another. I am not the one who always pays attention to details, but when I logged into Family Search the other day, I noticed that my brother and I were both listed as deceased. It came as a surprise to me, of course. I fixed those and sent a message who had put that in there. He was very apologetic about the mistake. He even thinks we are related through marriage on my dad’s side of the family. I think it was an honest mistake – and maybe a rookie mistake. I am sure I make plenty of my own! But, you know, it was an unwelcomed step in the process. Here I am looking for great-great grandparents (and their siblings, etc) and I get stuck trying to straighten out the details of my own life. Thankfully, I was able to message the guy and he messaged back and was very apologetic about the mistake.
Anyway, I think the hardest thing for me in this research is staying focused on one branch. I feel this immense pressure to connect with the ones who are still alive. But I don’t have relationships or even know everyone out there. So, I am going to start in a small circle and branch out from there.
Some of the challenges I have run into –
Challenge number 1: I have both an ancestry account and a family search account and a my heritage account. The trees are not identical, so I run back and forth between the three. That is something I need to solve. This leads to Challenge number 2:
Challenge number 2: I need a home base for my family tree so I am only working on my part and then I can update the other sites. And, while I love having things on a genealogy website, I want it in my physical possession, too. Websites go down, computers die. I will want the info printed from time to time. So, I bought family tree maker. I haven’t done anything with it yet but I will. And soon. First, I need to catch my breath!
Challenge number 3: I have physical items and I have digital items. I have notes on the back of envelopes. Notes from my mom, in her handwriting. Documents. All kinds of things. I don’t want every physical thing I have to be digital. And I don’t necessarily want every digital thing to be physical. What is the happy medium here? For now, I have a box and I keep tossing things in the box. And, on my computer, I have a Genealogy file and I keep tossing things in the file.
Challenge number 4: I run down these rabbit holes, and I need to balance how much time I spend on the project. But, also, time is running out. What a stressor for me! I want to do all the things, but I have a limited the amount of time to spend on it. And I must prioritize my focus. Is it better to dig deep for 52 hours in a week? Or is it better to do one hour a week for 52 weeks? Or is there some balance I can find in between those two?
Challenge number 5: I see there are people out there who know some of the answers. But, like me, their engagement is sporadic. They may be down their own rabbit hole and they don’t see my message. Or something else, who knows. It feels like so much hurry up and wait. So, I hurry up and then I wait. And then I am off doing something else until I have time to “get into the zone” again.
Challenge number 6: This feels more like an untamed forest than just a tree. I can’t seem to find my way around it in an orderly fashion. Thankfully, there are some who have gone before me and cut a few paths. And, I am thankful my friend Laszlo Josa is patiently working with me as I try to discern what’s out there and what belongs in my tree. He is holding my hand until I get my footing because I am definitely a toddler when it comes genealogy. Thank you, Laszlo! You are a gem!
If you are into genealogy, what solutions have you found to the challenges I have stated? What tips and tricks have worked for you?
Some of my recent genealogy wins:
I did a DNA test and found out that I am distantly related to a guy named Jozsef. Here is the funny thing about that, he traveled with my mom to Hungary in 1997, before we knew there as any family connection! We don’t know how we are related exactly yet and we may never know because we possibly share 5th great grandparents – or 6th or 7th! At any rate, it’s definitely distant. But it is definitely very cool. If my mom was alive, she would have LOVED to have known about this.
I sent a different DNA test last week just to see if it will show anything different. Who knows? It is interesting piecing things together, even just a little at a time.
I recently found, again, a letter a guy from Sweden sent to my mom explaining how he might be related to our family. Sadly, I don’t know that he is still alive, but I am slowly wading through the waters of the 1880’s to see if there is a connection. There appears to be one! And now I am connected to the part of the family that stayed in what is now Slovakia, but was a part of Hungary prior to the Treaty of Trianon in 1920. Fun stuff!
I have been communicating with several relatives – first cousins, second, cousins, third cousins. I have been asking for some first and secondhand information in order to bring a little more depth to the people in my family tree. We will talk more about that in a future episode of the podcast. In the meantime, if you are new to genealogy, start doing a little digging. Get a box for your genealogy finds and get a notebook and make a genealogy file on your computer. And start finding out the names, birth and death dates, important places lived, and the religious affiliation of your parents and grandparents. If you haven’t started yet, now is the best time! From time to time we will talk about genealogy on the podcast because it really does help round out a few things about Hungarian heritage. Remember, we can’t possibly pass on what we don’t know. Hopefully someone in your family is into genealogy – maybe you are the person!