by Melissa

Genealogy and I have experienced all the twists and turns expected of a tumultuous relationship. As a child, I spent every summer on my grandparents’ farm. Those days were spent roaming the hills, hearing stories about my grandfather’s experience in World War II, and anecdotes about the additions to the family home. During church, my grandmother would point at someone and say, that is your great aunt or your fourth cousin once removed or your cousin through grandpa’s cousin’s aunt’s family. I grew up with many aunts and uncles who were actually third and fourth cousins, but I did not know it as a child.

Twenty plus years later, I started library school with the intention of being a university librarian, but fate stepped in. The only job opening I found that worked with my school schedule was a position in the “history and geology department” of my public library. My first day on the job, I was shocked to discover I was employed in the history and genealogy department and that instead of working with questions concerning rocks and history, I would help people with their family history. My supervisor handed me a pedigree chart and advised me to begin my own genealogy research so I could understand the customer’s experiences. Once I began digging, I became obsessed with piecing the puzzle together. The search was fascinating and the stories revealed with each record, painted such an amazing landscape, and I finally began to recognize those names my grandmother used to mention in church. As with most people though, other obligations prevented me with my ancestors although I helped others daily, I drifted apart from my personal genealogy.

As I prepared to graduate with my new degree, I attended a library conference so I could interview for my dream job with a university. Hour after hour of lectures on reference material left me feeling confused and disillusioned by my career path until I asked to listen to a discussion concerning a new online database called Heritage Quest Online. Imagine my shock at discovering my love of genealogy once again. This chance meeting changed the course of my career and life forever. Listening to the flow of discussion and being asked to participate, I realized genealogy was my future.

For me, genealogy is not only the study of family history, but it is an insight into the sociological history of our country, our communities, and our family. I spend every day placing the pieces of my family and my customer’s family together. The stories shared and the mysteries unfolding hold me engrossed. As for my personal family history, I have a better appreciation of the individuals who kept making additions to that old family home. I discovered that the hills I had roamed as a child have been in my family for the past two centuries, giving my youthful moments more meaning. Though genealogy and I have been together for many years, it took a while for me to accept it is a true passion.