Sunday, November 11, 2012


I'm working on a better, longer post right now but I thought I should update because I feel I've been away too long.  Nothing terribly special is happening around here to take me away from my blog, however I have gotten back into my genealogy project, which is taking up (all) of my free time. 

When I tell people I'm interested in genealogy, they probably think I'm a total nerd and love hanging out with the blue haired old folks in the archives section of the local library.  While I have spent some time in those musty alcoves, more and more genealogical records are becoming digitized.  This means that most (if not all) of my research is done online at this point and I'm able to search for records all over the globe.  Another pay off is that it's made me a whiz at internet research, so I feel that kind of ups the coolness factor, if only just a smidgen.

My interest in genealogy started way back in grade 7. For my history class we had to do a family tree, which I immediately thought sounded kind of interesting.  We had to include as much detail as we could, and everything had to be neat and easily legible.  Then my teacher showed us an example of a student's work from the year prior and my heart sank.  She had SO much detail.  She could go SO many generations back.  There were literally like 60+ people on her chart!  And it was so pretty, and neat! Oh woe is me, how could I ever compete?  

Although I didn't manage to get very far back on that first family tree attempt, I can now proudly say that my tree would blow miss Awesome Student's out of the water.  I have over 8200 people connected to me.  Many of these are not blood relatives (as I'm not from Utah!), but I have started tracking down family trees of people who married into the family just in order to have something to keep working on.  The first question people ask when they find out I do genealogy as a hobby is "how far back can you go?". The farthest I've been able to connect back is through one line on my mom's side: 15 generations.  This line initially started in England back in the late 1500s and came to the U.S. on the Winthrop Fleet in the 1630s. Even 150 years later, some of their descendants must have been pretty attached to their British roots, because they decided to high tail it to Canada when things started to heat up for the Loyalists around the time of the American Revolution.  I should pause to state here that I have not done all of this research on my own.  No, no, far from it.  The trick in genealogy is to do as much as you can, and then connect up your relatives with someone else who has done further research.  Kind of like if I work on half a puzzle and then you work on half a puzzle and then all of a sudden we realize we're working on one big picture and we can match it up along the seams where it all fits together.  It's a great feeling when that happens!

An interesting part of genealogy is to see how major public historical events match up with your ancestors lives.  For example, today is Remembrance Day in Canada, and I've been able to track down many of the war records from various family members who have served in many different wars.  One of the recent lines I have been searching for is a great-great-great Grandfather b. abt 1834 in Ballymena, N. Ireland (near Belfast) and who served with the British Army in India.  He married a woman of British ancestry while he was in India and they had 7 children together.  I was so pleased when I came across their children's Baptism records on Family Search.  Sadly, what I also came across was 4 out of their 7 children's death records.  First child died age 6 months, fourth child died at age 2 years, sixth child died age 2 years and seventh child died age 1 month.  It doesn't say what they died of, but I'm guessing it was likely due to communicable diseases, probably made worse by these children's innate lack of immunity due to their parents not having Indian ancestry, as well as to their youth, which puts them at much greater risk.  My 3x-great grandfather's family could serve as a poster case for public health entitled "Reasons to Vaccinate".  Some might say, oh, but that's INDIA, a tropical country....who knows what kind of diseases people might run into there?

Okay, well then I also found my 3x great-grand uncle who was living with his wife and 5 children in 1889, right here in Canada, only a short drive from where I now sit over 100 years later typing on my computer.  Him and his wife were living a quiet life in a small town raising their 4 girls and one boy, ages 12, 10, 7, 5 and 2 1/2.  Then diphtheria struck.  Within three weeks, 4 of their children were dead.  Two died on the same day.

There would just be no words for the horror.  Not only for the parents, but for the sole remaining seven year old daughter.  The house would have gone from people filled, noise, laughter and screeching children running around, dirty clothes and hands, lots of mouths to feed, children to organize, things to get done... two adults and an only child.  No more brothers and sisters to play with.  No more sisters to look up to.  Only one remaining daughter to get up for every day.  No more sons to carry on the father's name and occupation.  A family reduced by over half. 

It's shocking how often this occurs when you really look on family trees.  Yes there are the rare families where every single child survived to adulthood...but that gets rarer the farther back in time you go.  Along time ago, men and women had to get married young (if possible) and have lots of kids (if possible), just in order to try to ensure some would make it to bury their parents.

For this reason it kind of irks me when I hear of people complain about vaccines.  I mean, I know there are lots of people who are wary of them, or feel too many are given, or are given too early, or fear they can cause potentially worse problems (autism, I'm looking at you, although according to research I don't need to).  These people have the right to their own opinion and I know lots of smart, well educated people who, for whatever personal reason, decide vaccination is not for them...but, really?  Does my family evidence (and probably yours, and yours and yours) not speak for itself?  


What do you say? (And yes, I know I might be opening a can of worms...fortunately I LOVE worms!)