My friend, Kelly, was telling me last week that Ancestry.com was having a special 14-day trial for free access to all the records that they have. Naturally, I was curious. I love history, I love my heritage. And while I know plenty about my mom’s side of the family, I had little known facts about my dad’s. As far as I knew, we’d pretty much stayed in the same state and our last name originated from Germany (with the meaning “great, loyal hunter” attached to it. If you as me, I don’t know how loyalty and hunting have any relevance…hmm, note: look more into loyal hunters.)
A lot of this stems from the fact I didn’t know my paternal grandfather. He died a year after my eldest sister was born of a very sudden and tragic heart attack. He was beloved by all, a funny man I was told, but he called for respect from everyone he knew. Even my mother’s father, lovingly dubbed ‘Papaw’, said my dad’s dad was a great man. And having not known him always raised questions:
Would he like me? What did his laugh sound like? Did he like chocolate? What were his favorite things to do? What were his parents and grandparents like? Among others, there were always little to no answers that accompanied them. My dad rarely talked about him and my grandma told stories here and there. But us kids…we wanted to know! What was he like? And after that, what was the rest of our family like?
So, I did it. I made the commitment and signed up. Why not? I wasn’t expecting to find much seeing as how medical records are generally shotty and people often misspell names or get dates of birth wrong. (My brother’s middle name is ‘Cable’ because SOMEONE—coughcoughDADcoughcough—didn’t spell ‘Caleb’ correctly and the nurse didn’t think to ask. We found that out sixteen years later when he went to get his driver’s license.) I gave them my card number and started my 14-day free trial with all intention of cancelling it the day after my birthday. (September 22nd, for all those wondering!) And—much to my surprise—I was shocked.
In just three hours, I traced my paternal grandfather’s family all the way back to 1620 (that’s 12 generations) in a place called Clare Carrick, County Tyrone, Ireland. (Which TOTALLY explains why that has always been the place I have wanted to travel!) There were no loyal hunters to be found! And there were documents stating that our family had owned the land dubbed Clare Carrick since the 11th century! As you can imagine, my mouth is still slack-jawed. I just can’t believe what I found. And all of this was discovered because I wondered if my dad’s dad liked chocolate.
To be a bit sentimental would be an understatement. I feel close to him, I feel like I know him more in some way or another; that by understanding and searching out my ancestors, I have linked myself with him forever. We have always shared a common bond, but I guess that since I never knew his physical presence, it lacked from time to time. I only have 13 days left on my free trial, but if I could encourage anyone to do this…especially if you have lost loved ones or never knew them…do it. It has already been such a rewarding experience and I wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on a history lesson they’ll never forget.