by Allison

Whether you are a novice or an expert, your genealogy start-story is one to be proud of and to share.  As the newest librarian on the ACPL Genealogy Center staff, I would like to introduce myself by sharing my own start-story.  

Like many youngsters, I often went to pay my respects at the cemetery with my family.  Perhaps unlike most people, my maternal grandmother would take me for hours just to wander the local cemetery in Plymouth, Indiana, the town where my mother was raised.  She wanted to show me the names, dates, and symbols.  While she had no interest in genealogy, she instilled a love of cemeteries in me at a very young age. They are places to love, respect, learn, and be at peace.  While death is never a happy subject, having the ability to retain a connection with deceased friends and family is a good thing.  My parents were not as enthralled with cemeteries as my grandmother and I, but they would go and clean out the family plot in the Catholic Cemetery of Fort Wayne and put fresh silk flowers out every season.  

At age sixteen and I went to the cemetery with my parents and other relatives to perform the annual change of the silk flowers.  Since there were more than enough people helping with the family plot, I began to wander through the section to look at the different stones.  I was astonished when I discovered a grave stone with my father’s name on it!  My father, Edward, was named after his grandfather, Edward.  My father is alive and well while his grandfather had been buried since 1955.  I had no idea who the third Edward could have been.  After my initial shock, I realized that the dates were off.  This Edward was only 9 years old when he passed away!  He was also born almost twenty years after my great-grandfather.  Something did not add up.  

I went back to the family plot and asked my family members if they knew anything about it.  They were all surprised and went back to the grave to see for themselves.  None of them had any idea who the child was and how he was related to our family.  That was the day I became a novice genealogist.  I wanted to know everything about this child and why he wasn’t in our family plot if he was a relative.  Unfortunately, my paternal grandparents were deceased by this time.  I could not ask them any questions.  I had to turn to the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center for help.

I still remember walking into the library and being overwhelmed.  I had no idea where to start.  Luckily for me, there was a librarian at the desk who was willing to assist me in my beginning search.  The interesting thing was that I did not want to start with me, which is the recommended way to begin genealogy.  I was bound and determined to figure out who the child with my father’s name was and how he was related to us.  Thankfully, the librarian helped me find information on the child’s death.  This led me to his parents’ names.  The grand mystery was solved.  The third Edward was the nephew of my great-grandfather with the same name.  His brother honored him by naming his son after him.  It was easy to link the brother to my family since he died the same year as the child and is buried in our family plot.  It was also interesting to discover that the child was buried next to his mother who died long after the child.  In fact, she remarried and had a long life before finally settling next to her little boy.  

While I was able to solve the family mystery, it opened up a door of many more mysteries.  Why did my great-grandfather’s brother die so young?  Who were these family members?  What did they do?  What other family members can I find?  The simple family mystery in a cemetery many years ago has led me to spending over half of my life doing genealogy research.  I was hooked!  

What is your genealogy start-story?  Have you shared it with your family?  Sometimes learning about the family mysteries and skeletons in the closet are the best ways to pique someone’s interest in learning more about genealogy.  I look forward to working with all of you!

(We welcome Allison to The Genealogy Center! Read more about her and the rest of the public service staff.)