Saturday Night Genealogy Fun! September 17

My grandfather who started it all, Milton Hartzell Anderson.

I’m a few days late but I love participating in the SNGF series from Genea-Musings when I have an opportunity. Genealogy has taken kind of a back burner this summer and fall thanks to a travel-heavy summer and beginning graduate school in August. Here is a link to the original post:

The prompt for this week is: What was the “trigger,” that started you actively researching your family history and genealogy?

This week’s prompt really spoke to me because I have a very vivid memory of what got me started in genealogy. To preface this story, my maternal grandmother spent 25+ years working on her genealogy. In the end of her life she began working on my father’s genealogy in order to establish my and my sibings’ eligibility to join the First Families of Warren County and the Daughters of the American Revolution. At the time I had no appreciation for the amount of work that went into this. I was barely surviving my American history course in high school and I had no desire to spend any more time on history. I declined official membership in the DAR, which I now regret because I do not have all the documents assembled and described anymore. My grandmother passed away in 2008, shortly before I left for college, and I never developed an interest in genealogy while she was alive. I was impressed with the tidbits she threw out like the evolution of last names in our family or countries of origin but the nitty-gritty work of genealogy was repellent to me.

Fast forward 6 years. I have graduated college and I’m teaching middle school French. One day, out of the blue, I’m sitting in my living room in my hand-me-down Lay-Z-Boy and a thought suddenly occurs to me. “I have no idea what my [paternal] grandfather did during his WWII service.” This was distressing to me because we were about to take a trip to Normandy and I had no idea if he was there or what he did. My father wasn’t entirely sure either because he didn’t talk about it much. I never had an opportunity to ask because my grandfather died the year before I was born. This led to my next thought: “I bet I can find it online.” I was a self-proclaimed internet search guru. I was one of those people that used to enjoy that game Google developed around searching. I also love a challenge. I set out on a quest to determine where I could find information about his service.

It turns out it would take me three months to find his enlistment information and even longer to learn that his would have been one of thousands of records that burned in St. Louis in the 1970’s. In the mean time I found information about his father, his grandfather, his great-grandfather and it before I knew what had happened I was hooked. This genealogy fever lead to my mother digging out the boxes and boxes of research my grandmother did in her lifetime. Records she drove across the country to retrieve but were already sitting on my hard drive thanks to digitization projects. My father dug out boxes of his father’s things which contained artifacts from his war experience that allowed me to piece together a basic understanding of his service. Countless family photos I had never seen leading to memories and stories I had never heard. A tour of my dad’s hometown where my paternal line lived for almost 150 years. All of this was fascinating to me. Not only was it drawing artifacts out of the woodwork of my own house, it was an endless internet search mystery and the prize was the story of the people I am related to.

It was so fascinating that I’m writing this post from the Indiana University library while I am waiting for my Archives and Records Management class to start so I can be part of the next generation of genealogists!

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