I first started researching my family tree shortly after my grandfather passed away. I went to my husband’s family reunion and they passed out a binder including all sorts of interesting information, historical documents, pictures and stories about their family. I studied that binder and ended up knowing more about my husband’s family than he did. I knew about all the people in his family tree and the stories helped me to feel like I actually knew them. I felt a connection to his ancestors and it led to my connection and addiction to ancestry research.
I quickly realized just how stupid I had been. My children had this amazing binder full of information about their paternal side of the family. They would know all of the stories and details about where they came from and yet, from my side they would have nothing. I knew nothing about my family and I immediately realized that my grandfather would have been the one person who would not only provide a wealth of information but would absolutely love that I was so interested in researching his family tree.
My grandfather was many things. He was strong and caring. He was hardworking and self-driven. He was the kind of guy who would come up with an idea of how to make something easier and then just go build it. My Grandpa was the story-teller of the family. I can’t even tell you how many times I sat at their dining room table listening to him tell stories. He lived such a full and happy life and you could hear and see that in the way that he told his stories. I remember him talking about his parents and grandparents. Another thing I remember is that while we heard him tell the stories and enjoyed them, none of us were really listening.
Don’t get me wrong. We were listening to him. We enjoyed the family conversations and stories that he told at the table. Maybe we were being naive in thinking that he would always be here and just enjoying the moments as we were in them. Only now can I realize one of my greatest regrets in life, failing to write anything down. I will forever appreciate and cherish those times of storytelling but honestly, all that I remember is the feelings that it produced. I remember feeling that my Grandpa was such a cool guy and such a good man. I remember thinking that us listening to his stories made him really happy. I remember hearing and then hearing again the same stories over and over again and thinking how he was reliving his life as he told his stories. I remember giggling to myself as I realized that he had already told this particular story a million times before and he honestly thought it was the first time he was telling it. It didn’t matter.
Each time he told a story, he told it in an animated way that made it seem so real. I remember watching his eyes twinkle when he laughed about a funny part of the story or when he told a joke. What I don’t remember, are the details of his stories. I’m so happy that I have these memories. I just wish that I had paid much closer attention to what he was saying. It would have made tracing my family tree a much easier task. I also wish that I had started tracing my family tree long before I did because he would have loved it. The historian in me feels like I wasted so much time just enjoying the moments that I have in my memories instead of writing them all down. I’ll never regret cherishing those times however and I know that he’s loving every single minute of my family tree research, even now.