I didn't set out to become an amateur genealogist, though I've always been interested in history. I even minored in it as an undergraduate at the University of Texas. I've always been fascinated by old photos, by the stories my family told around the dining room table, how the names of ancestors roll off the tongue, but for years I've lived disillusioned or confused about my family's history.
On a cold afternoon in January, having not begun any of the resolutions I set for myself before the year began: losing weight, artisan bread-making, travel to a new destination, a cousin on my father's side of the family posted fading photos of ancestors taken in the early part of the 19th century. Photos I didn't know existed, of people I'd heard of vaguely, but people who were collectively responsible for my existence. It began then.
I signed up for ancestry.com, and was immediately sucked in. A few family members from each branch had already spent years researching various aspects of the tree. I got in touch with them via email, some were family members I never knew existed, and they've been unbelievably generous with their time, sharing stories, documents, and photos. Guiding me through. Already I feel more open and connected to the world than ever before. I came from somewhere. These people lived real lives. They thrived in precarious situations, or didn't. They made and lost fortunes, broke their bodies against the land, and struggled to understand themselves and the changing world. They died, some very forgotten. I will discover and remember them here.