My fascination with genealogy began with a pair of eyes. When I was a child, I used to spend a great deal of time with my grandmother – she lived just a hop, skip and a jump away. She was an interesting woman, with a lot of stories and best of all, a big box of old photographs. As a girl, I was totally obsessed with high neck lace dresses or dresses with bustles, so I became rather knowable with the clothing of 1800-1920. The photographs in this box fit the bill, and it’s even better that they happened to be my relatives. Of course, most of the people in the photographs were dead, but my grandmother had stories about some of them. But even her knowledge was limited. There was one photograph in particular I became attached to – it was a photograph of my grandmother when she was about 18. I loved that photograph. Well, years passed and my grandmother was no longer with us, eventually those photographs came into my possession. And, I put them aside in a closet and went on with my life.
Then one day while applying my makeup, I was startled when I noticed that my grandmother’s eyes were regarding me in the mirror. Well, not her real eyes - that would be creepy. They were in fact my eyes but they looked exactly like her eyes when she was 18. Or at least how remembered them. So, I went to that closet and pulled out those photographs and I looked at them. This time I looked at more than clothing, I looked at the faces. I found more similarities than just eyes and more than just with me. It was amazing how much the people in the photographs looked like my brother, mother and cousins. However, for the most part, I had no idea who the people silently gazing back at me were.
And, that is where it began, the searching for the stories behind the photographs – the need to know who they were. Along the way, I’ve had some surprises. I never had any idea my grandmother’s forbears were Swiss Anabaptists or Mennonites. And for some reason I was excited when I discovered one of them had been forced to leave Switzerland. For every discovery, there was a mystery – why was my aunt left a bucket of pennies? Where is my g-g-g-g-grandmother's grave and was she really married to my g-g-g-g-grandfather? Among all of the Mennonites in my family I have found a Catholic priest. I have found the grave (and planted flowers there) of my g-g-g-uncle who died at Shiloh at the age of 21. With every discovery I stumble across, every story that I record, every fact I uncover, I become closer to the people frozen in time in those old photographs, my family.