Share your gen heart!

I’m ready for a new year of gen-heart stories. Send me 300 words about your genealogy heart story! Genealogy is one if the few areas of work or study where sharing is so freely and acceptably practiced. I’ll post one of my favorites soon!


New beginnings: A wedding in the family

The bride was beautiful. The groom, my son, looked slightly overwhelmed but very happy. Austin, Texas hill country provided a gorgeous but slightly chilly setting. I had the chance to see many people I haven’t seen in some time since my move to Louisiana. My genealogy radar was tuned to any new news and and I made several mental notes. It was one fantastic party and can’t wait get together with the newlyweds in a few months.

My gift to John and Ashley came straight from my genealogy heart. I thought they might find it dull or boring and I thought carefully before I made my decision. Still, I thought it was a perfect time to remind them to remember their heritage. Their future began with the past and I wanted them to remember that and build on it. I hope they do.

For my son, I created a small spiral bound book with letters I had written to him in part one. The second half of the book held some interesting morsels about the ancestors who bore his name and others who made sacrifices for our families. Those men and women lived in hard lives in a time of growth, enduarnce and testing in our country.

For Ashley, I chose a pearl from her new husband’s great, great grandmother’s ring. It was a token that I felt would bring her a strong sense of connection and welcome into our family.

In the midst of the celebrating I found a time to take each of them aside and present them with the gifts. They accepted them with the pride, humility and gratitude that melts a mother’s heart. John clutched that book all night and shared it with so many people. Ashley, too.

I’m glad I had gone back to family roots to find gifts that touched them. I’m delighted to know they value those gifts. I also hope the seed I plant will someday sprout into a new family historian who will continue the family saga in the future.

I am so pleased with my new daughter in law and happy for my son. I’m looking forward to more new beginnings and great times to share family stories and treaured gifts…

from the genealogist’s heart!

New Year 2012

Simply put…it’s time to get back to writing. Goal: one entry per week. Plan: focus on gen heart, gen research, building connections. Starting now. Yay!


The months have passed and my writing here has lagged.  I moved…again. It seems I have a habit of doing that.  It may be my father’s military influence that makes me have “itchy feet” but the truth is I love a fresh start. This time though I bought a little townhouse. My companion and I are loving it. It makes me think about other summer moves.

I’m not thinking  so much of the the physical move as the spiritual– the shift from winter attitude to summer haze. It’s the soft hum–the change when the only thing on your mind is your next vacation, your next homemade ice cream, your next blueberry pie.  For me, it was clam chowder, corn on the cob and steamed lobster– and the summer house by the beach.

During summer my writing changes as well.  Suddenly I stop collecting and start reflecting. Instead of always wondering “what’s the next step?”,  I begin to think “What does this mean? How does it fit with the rest of the story”  It makes me a feel like a writer again. Summer opens my vision, makes life simpler, and lessens the need to rush.

For me, it’s like being at the beach.  While I  sit in the sand and watch the waves,  I get a sense of rhythm, of purpose,  and a  fresh state of mind. I feel no need to rush headlong into the wave just yet.  I take it slow, let the water tickle my toes while I think.  I feel the first small waves dance at my knees while the freshness of life circles around me.  For a moment, I am open to whatever may come.

I encourage you to find that moment today. No matter what you are in the midst of writing – whether it is a family saga, a novel or a report, let summer lessons remind you to slow down.  Take it one step at a time.  Move forward, watch the horizon and let the freshness of life into your writing.  No matter what you write, let it be from the heart…


Memoir and genealogy writers: What were your favorite foods of summer? Who made that dish? Do you have the recipe? Who shared the meal with you? Where were you when you first tasted it?


Faces of my past…

Easter picture. Taken in New York

My birth mother, Shirley, taken with me! I have an Easter chick in my lap and I don’t think I liked it.

Heart lessons…

I recently saw a post from an adopted family member. (I “adopt” all my genealogy found friends and relatives.) She was remembering her sister’s passing and offered her peace. I commented that had it not been for her sister’s passing, I would never have found my friend.

If you have been watching “Who Do You Think You Are” and are new to genealogy, you may recognize the serendipitous nature of the chain of events we all create. For my genealogy long time friends, you see it every day in your research. One thing always leads to another and informs not only our minds but our hearts as well.

 It was an Ohio database that five years ago published my mother’s passing. It was her death certificate that led me to her business partner in California. It was a friendly librarian in Tuscawaras County, Ohio, that led me to Shirley’s (my birth mother’s) obit. Shirley’s obit started a search for her friends and family that brought me to Bobbie. It was Bobbie’s obit that brought me to her sister, Kel, who knew my mother.

The same mother that I lost at age 4 or 5, spent 20 years getting to know Kel. From Kel I learned Shirley thought I had died as a child and so never thought to find me. It taught me valuable lessons as a genealogist. Don’t believe what you hear. And never give up.

I tell this to my classes and I see them nod their heads. I know. It’s hard not to wonder if we are beating our heads against the wall for nothing. We get “the look” – the one that says, why in the world do you bother with dead people?

My answer is, they aren’t really dead- their legacy lives on in me, in you. Ask Rosie O’Donnell. Ask Tim McGraw what they learned. It was not so much about their ancestors but about themselves.

Every person in my circle tells me more about myself, why I am, who I am, what I’ve brought with me. I have in me what Shirley loved-reading, art, the smell and feel of water rushing in a stream or the waves rolling in the ocean. I have more than her hands or her genes…I have some of her spirit. That could have only been recovered by doing this work that I love.

I have to do what?

I have to do WHAT?

I fell into this world of tree charts, gedcoms, kinship, and all that goes with by accident. I was looking for a transition from part time to full time in my library world. A new position in the genealogy collection opened up just in time. With my background in anthropology, law and customer service I thought I had a good chance and applied. Two weeks later I was initiated to the world of genealogy, which was nothing that I expected.

I was impressed with my mentor. I felt like I was going to be okay until she gave me my first assignment.  As every genealogist knows the only real way to learn the ropes is to just do it.  That is exactly what she wanted me to do- start digging into my own family history.

I panicked.  After I settled, I gulped, and told her my tale- one I have heard many times since. “But you don’t understand… My father’s line came from Sweden directly to Rhode Island, where they stayed. Short and Sweet. End of story.”

“And your mother’s line?” she asked. I felt the knot grow in my stomach. I was hoping she wouldn’t ask, but I knew it was inevitable.

“I don’t know my birth mother,” I whispered,  “ but I’m not adopted. I have a stepmother who was born and raised in Canada. My mother is a taboo subject in my family- especially with my Dad. She disappeared from our lives when I was five years old.  There were problems, a messy divorce, and she just vanished.  No one knows anything about where she is or even if she is alive. I know nothing except what is on my birth certificate– her name, age and place of birth. Can I pick another family? Please?”

My mentor smiled. “No”, she said, “your family will do fine. I won’t tell you it will be easy. You have your work cut out for you.”

Where do I start? What would I do? Was I doomed to fail from the start? Had I made a giant mistake? The first steps of my journey took me straight to a brick wall.