Sir Hugh de Malebisse – Norman knight, participant in Battle of Hastings, 1066 A.D. This is the man who launched my interest in genealogy!
It happened in 4th grade. We had an assignment to do a report on someone interesting in our family. Someone deceased, I think. I asked my Dad for advice, so he pulled out this ornate lineage chart hand-crafted by his great-grandmother Virginia (Smith) Jones (1827-1906), which purported to lead through the centuries in her Beckwith line to Sir Hugh. This was based on the rather fanciful genealogy published by Paul Edmond Beckwith in 1891.Paul Edmond Beckwith, The Beckwiths (Albany, New York: Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1891). My imagination was fired and I proudly took my report to school to show off my connection to William the Conqueror. While all the other kids stood up to talk about Grandpa Bill who worked on the railroad or Aunt Matilda who baked nice pies, I was the only one who talked about a medieval knight from 900 years ago! I seem to recall Mrs. Lange looking very amused … and deservedly skeptical.
When I was in 5th grade, I remember my Dad spending an entire weekend morning with me in the St. Paul Park kitchen as he spread out a large acetate sheet on which he proceeded to draw his family tree and talk about various ancestors. The tragic tale of Nelson Howard Jones (1886-1901) dying of meningitis at age 15 was always a big one – and the destructive effect it had on the family because Dr. Howard Jones favored this son over the others. Of course, the story of the Nests & Eggs of the Birds of Ohio and the sad demise of Genevieve Jones (1847-1879) was another.See the Smithsonian link about this here. Anyway, I think that was the first time I had ever seen a family tree like that, essentially a fan chart.
So I have always been fascinated by my ancestors – by where I came from and what the lives of my ancestors were like. My Father worked on his ancestry off and on for over 30 years. I loved hearing his stories – even when he tended to obsess over the military exploits of ancestors William Brown (1761-1804), Leonidas Lukemire (1843-1928), and Wesley Blalock (1825-1895). Dad’s episodic research culminated in a 1995 family report. My Mom also worked on her genealogy along with my Aunt Susie and they drafted two reports: one very thorough piece on their Vermilyea line and a shorter one on their Norwegian ancestors after a trip to Norway in 2001.
I always knew that I would eventually get into genealogy more extensively, but life somehow got in the way. I helped Dad a couple times in the 1980s by pulling Civil War pension files at the National Archives, but with a family and full-time job and the boys sporting events, I never really found the time to get into genealogy properly. Doing it when I retired was always in the back of my mind.
Then, in 2010, a colleague mentioned Ancestry.com. I joined that very night and was immediately hooked. It was so easy! Too easy, in some respects, as I quickly learned that other people’s trees are risky sources. This also coincided with Dad’s failing health, another incentive. Building on my parents’ efforts and accessing the incredible power of online tools, I have been able to expand the family tree considerably. After 8 years, I now have a tree with over 3,000 names and 700 direct ancestors. Sir Hugh de Malebisse, of course, is nowhere to be found!
I also started to help others with their trees. Before my retirement in 2016, I used to bug the employees in my unit about the origin of their family names and, if they showed interest, build basic family trees for them. I’m inclined to give free advice and talk to anyone about genealogy!
I hope with this blog to document my personal family research, including DNA findings, provide tips & techniques of how to conduct research, and share the stories of my successes and failures in this grand endeavor we call genealogy.
Input on my blog articles is always welcome, so don’t hesitate to submit a question or comment using the contact form. Enjoy!