Over the past few years, I have become the go-to person in my family for family information. I gladly overwhelm everyone who asks me with tons of information. I answer any questions about the family or just genealogy in general. I find lots of ways to bring up my ancestors in a fun way. It didn’t happen overnight. I didn’t just say, hey this family tree thing is cool. I’m going to do that for the rest of my natural life.
Everyone can research their family tree. It’s something we are all capable of. I always tell people though, don’t get yourself bogged down in a “have to finish” scenario. Let’s be honest, none of us will ever really “finish”. There is always more to find. You might find the dates and places quickly, but that isn’t the story behind your ancestor. That isn’t telling their story. Some people aren’t interested in that part at first, and I think that’s just fine. I was a name and date collector at first, and I kind of still am. I look for the stories too but I had an experience at a repository that changed my view of genealogy.
I’ve talked about it before. My first visit to the Nabb Research Center in Salisbury, Maryland. When I got started, I was given a family tree by my Grandma. I didn’t pursue it right away but it was always there in my mind. After I graduated high school, I was working with my Mom in a video store (R.I.P Blairs Video of Leonardtown, MD). She would start to chat about wanting to research the family tree and she even got the first Ancestry membership in the house. It wasn’t long before we broke out Grandma’s family tree to see where to go. We saw that the Taylor Family had first lived in Somerset County, Maryland. What? Who sells hundreds of acres on the Eastern Shore of Maryland? My ancestors do of course. We got in the car one weekend, and we went to the Nabb Research Center to search for our ancestors. Armed with our family tree knowledge. Not the tree, but the knowledge. Oh boy, we were newbies.
We walked in, and the very, very helpful staff asked what family we were researching. We proudly stated, “The Taylor Family!” Words can not explain the way the helpful gentleman’s face changed. It went from, “Nice to see you, glad to help you” to “Oh”. I’m not joking, just “Oh”. He gave us a tour of the small center and a rundown of the documents we might want to use. Then gently let us know that searching the Taylor family in Somerset County might be a little overwhelming because it was kind of like searching for John Smith in Virginia. About that time I was saying, “Oh”.
It was a great first day in a repository, I looked up plenty. Mom looked up plenty. There was just so much! Then you realize there are pages of just land patents with the name Taylor in them. Not the owner name, the name of the land. Taylors Chance, Taylors Hill, Taylors Addition, Taylors Advice, Taylors Bog, Taylors Adventure, Taylors Delight. You get the point. 🙂 Then you see the same names, William Taylor, James Taylor, John Taylor. There were so many Taylor resources there, I can’t even remember them all. Oh my, to a new genealogist, this was intimidating. The thing you don’t see, is my family tree, because that wasn’t in the collection. I mean, I knew William Taylor who had a wife Sarah, but I didn’t know William Taylor by himself, because I was only thinking about my direct guy and what I saw on my tree. The problem with that is I have 23 William Taylors in my family tree. Some of those can be sorted off the list due to the year of birth being too recent. I couldn’t do that though, because I was only armed with my memory. I had no working knowledge of the tree.
Once I got home and licked my wounds. I decided I was going to become the expert on the Taylor family. I was going to know every William Taylor and every James Taylor. I wasn’t going to feel so adrift at the research center the next time. The problem was, even after going back a second time, I was still adrift. It was at that point I realized that I know nothing Jon Snow… Sorry, the really bad humor Kathleen showed up for a minute there. What I really realized was that it was okay to be a name and date collector for the time, because without the names and dates, I wasn’t going to have any way of finding the stories of my ancestors.
Which is why, when my people ask me now how to get started, I tell them to start with what they know. Without going through the same process, how else will they be able to go on this 13+ year journey of really knowing where they come from. They might not be interested in spending 13 years on the family tree. Maybe they just want a basic knowledge without all the thousands of details. I have no way of knowing, and honestly I don’t think they do either. It wasn’t until I was feeling dejected after two wonderful days of researching that I realized how far I really wanted to take this crazy genealogy journey. So until they know, I’ll just be sitting over here on my hands trying not to overwhelm them. There is one thing I can’t help but tell them. WRITE DOWN YOUR SOURCES. PLEASE. Mom found a book where it said one of the Taylors sold all his land and followed his son to Kentucky because the son was absconding from justice and we didn’t write it down. We were new, we didn’t know, but now we want to know what happened! Don’t we all wish we had done that in the beginning. Oy vey.
Thank you for listening to my nostalgic rambling. I just can’t believe I’ve been researching for over 13 years now and I still don’t know where Horatio Taylor fits in to everything. That just goes to show, there is always more research to do.
P.S. I know I threw Horatio in there at the end. I was looking at our photocopies of the land patents and I remembered that I never did find him.