The Armchair Genealogist posted today about the Moment She Knew…she was hooked on genealogy. She asked blogger to write about their own revelation, so here I am.
One day back in 1989, we went to visit my Grandma at the convalescent home. As always she was demanding and bossy. I sat back and took in the conversation not really paying attention.
In the course of the conversation, my Grandma mentioned that she wanted to record the family history. She had sent my brother some letters to pass it on to him since he was the oldest male. Evidently, this was something the oldest son was supposed to take on.
As my Grandma lamented that no one was interested in the past, I interrupted her. I love history, always have. I waved my hand eagerly “Hey, look over here!” I told her that I would be happy to take her stories and type them up to share with everyone. I knew very little about my Mom’s side of family. I was more than interested in knowing who my Portuguese and Irish ancestors were.
It took a few weeks, but then I held those letters in my hand. They told all about my Great Grandparents and how they came to America. Of course, now I know half of what’s in those letters isn’t true, but back in 1989 I had no clue. All I knew was that I was holding my history in my hand and it was incredible.
I think I got a glimmer at that moment that I was hooked. But, I don’t think it fully sunk in until I did my first full research trip.
I had signed up for the National Archives Microfilm Rental Program. The first microfilm I ordered was for the 1910 census. I took the rolls to the local public library which had a microfilm reader.
I scrolled and scrolled through those Oakland streets. I hadn’t yet learned about soundex or miracode. And, then there they were…the Pacheco’s of E. 25th Street. I remember saying something out loud like “Oh my God, there they are!” I paused as elation played across my brain. They really did exist!
That’s when I knew. The thrill of the hunt. After spending an hour or two going through a film and then there they were…my people. I imagine for non-genealogist it’s difficult to understand that feeling. But, I know that everyone working on their family tree who reads this post knows exactly what I am talking about. That connection from me to my ancestors and back again. It is what kept me going.
It all started with my Grandma’s desire to leave a written record of our family history. Although she lost interests after those first letters, she lit the spark that set me in motion. And, since that day at the microfilm reader, I haven’t stopped. It was that moment, that first big discovery, that marked me. I don’t think I could have stopped researching my tree if I tried.
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com