Monday, October 22, 2012

Pursuing Family History

Story by Louise Lahmann

In the late 70s my sister Josie was getting married and moving back east and on the way stopped over with an overstuffed manila envelope full of papers and pictures that were to become the beginnings of my interest in genealogy. She told me she didn’t have time to work on it now and wondered if I would like to. It sounded fun. I looked at all the stuff and realized there was so much she didn’t have and I became curious to find the missing pieces.
Mother Mildred, me and sister Josie

I started contacting family members and getting birth dates, marriages and deaths. It was a lot of work but I enjoyed the correspondence and learned a lot. I liked the letters coming in the mail because I never knew what I was going to get. It was exciting. Eventually I was interacting with people that weren’t related but they were interested in family history also. It was helpful to learn about the other genealogist because I discovered how to do it better myself. For instance, I wasn’t very good at documenting in the beginning and later I didn’t know where I got some of my data - so I corrected this.

My uncle Ben had worked on my grandmother Cora’s paternal side and he had a lot of material that was useful and my interest grew because it added a lot to the tree. He had done research since 1920 and his aunt Leona had done work on it before him so the information went way back.

About this time I found out about the Family History Center and started going to Portland and using the computer to research for free on I found the people there very helpful and they guided me so I found census and other records. I had never used a computer before so I had to learn and the staff there showed me what to do and worked with me. I developed some good friendships there.  Later I found out about the center in Gladstone and started going there since it was easier to get to.

Uncle Ben Jackson
My family tree grew and I began contacting even more people that looked like they might have data about my ancestors. I got a lot of addresses from the computer on different sites. People who had information for me but some who needed it too - we traded.  I found Shirley, a distant cousin, in Louisiana and we wrote for many years until she died. I got stacks of information from her on that side of my family.

Then I discovered Sandra, another distant cousin in Canada who sent me whole trees and gave me tons of valuable info that helped me in my search. I also found some data that she didn’t have so we exchanged much and emailed each other every so often.
There were two other people I became close with. Alan Potts was another very distant cousin that I exchanged info with. He sent me three informative books that he had written on the family. I was even able to fill in some missing pieces for him. Then, my cousin Leon Jackson sent me four valuable books he had written. He was a professor in Indiana and had traveled to many of the locations to research and look for records.
Cousin Sandra Janzen

A couple years ago quit offering info for free at the Family History Center. The staff told me I would have to pay to access that info now. So what I could learn about my family began to dwindle. By this time Lorita had moved in with me and so I had access to a computer at home now. In my search Online I would go to open a document and discover it was and I had to be a member to see it. I was upset that they wanted to charge for what I got free before. Honestly, I didn’t like very much and complained about them every time. Lorita tried to get me to buy a membership but I refused because I felt it was too expensive.

Then on my birthday Lorita and Ryan bought me a one year membership for the entire world (that’s more than just the U.S.).  Now I love - I have learned so much and met so many people and we email back and forth. I help them and they help me. It’s very fun because I get new information on my family tree every day, make exciting discoveries, and find people that had long been only a blank space on my tree.

My great grandfather's sister found on
On my mother’s side I found great great grandparents and their families that I had never known about before and I had been searching a long time. Sometimes I’ll find an unknown husband or wife or child in a census or on someone's site and its another puzzle piece that fits in place.  Sometimes I feel like a detective.  I love to solve the mystery.                              

Another thing I love is finding photos on someone’s tree - one’s I had never seen. I have shared many of my family photos with others too and I like to help them and they appreciate it as much as I do.

Besides my mom and dad’s family line and extended family lines, I have also been working on my husband’s family tree and also my grandson Ryan. I took his tree back on one side to the 1500s. And Ryan’s dad, Bob O’Leary, who had thought all his ancestors were from Ireland found out most had come from Scotland. That was a surprise for him.

Bob O'Leary's grandparents on the Carroll side. His mom is one of the twin babies.
Every person on the computerized tree has a place for a photo.  If I don’t have a photo of their face then maybe there’s a picture of their gravestone. I also like the time period before photos because on the place where a photo would go I can find etchings of a immigrant ship, a flag,  coat-of-arms or the likenesses of men and women and the way they dressed during that time period and put those in place of a photo.

Researching family history has been a great hobby for me.  It gives me a happy feeling to connect the people together and it helps me understand more about myself and my roots.  I’m glad I got because now I’m back to finding documents and things I never would have found otherwise. I decided it’s well worth the price because it brings pleasure and gives me something to look forward to.  It’s a legacy I can leave to my descendants, if they’re interested.

Mom with all her children (I'm in the white blouse)

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