Genealogy isn’t as easy as ancestry.com makes it sound.
Today we welcome special guest, Laurie Hermance-Moore, a professional genealogist.
A family comes to a genealogist with little idea of who their family is.
The curious ones start wondering, usually when they get towards retirement and begin to think about a legacy for their family.
That’s the non-financial inheritance that a life coach helps provide, the idea of your family history as a legacy you can leave.
When you can look back and understand how far back this ancestry goes-the sacrifices the decisions these people had to make that led to you-it is so much more compelling, and it takes the selfishness out of the story.
There’s a tendency for us to say I created this, but when you look back, it’s so much bigger than you. You’re a small part of this story that is so grand.
So how do you find your genealogy?
It’s historical research, so you look for old documents. 90% of American men in the 1900’s owned land- these were white men. When we talk about generational wealth, it started with white men getting land. And this was because the government made land cheap.
There were property acts way before that, which allowed them to buy acres of property for a couple of dollars. It’s more typical than not that a family at that point had 12-14 children. Suddenly, the population growth was so exponential, so people needed to find more space.
There are tragic parts of this too, where the land becoming available is directly related to Native Americans being pushed off of it. All these events happening set a course for how people are situated in American society today.
The other thing is, if you had 14-some children, there is that spiderweb effect. One decision by one person leads to 14 other people, and then they all make similar life-altering decisions that set completely different trajectories for their kids.
Sometimes records exist that will tell you surprising things.
If you were living at that time, you might be called upon to inventory the estate of someone who passed. There were all these slips of paper to realize who they gave this money to.
The estate sale happens, then there are pages of detail of everything sold. You can tell by the names that they’re all the people who, if you research them, you find them connected to that person over and over again. We call this fan research.
By studying the people around them, you figure out where they originally lived or exactly who their children are. People didn’t move by themselves; they moved with groups of people.
Researching the network of people solves most of the difficult problems, but can be pretty tricky before you get to 1850. You get to see how families took care of each other. You’ll find other women or aunts or a mother-in-law taking care of a niece or nephew when the mother has died.
You use scraps of information through diligent research to tie together the story of a family. That is genealogy.
The pivotal moments in one person’s life are so critical. Without one decision, it’s just a totally different story.
A lot of times, clients come away with a story of perseverance. We think life in modern-day America is hard…you start to realize how fortunate you are.
You see that because that one ancestor took that leap of faith in himself, it helps everyone after them get a running start.
This is the standing on the shoulders piece. When people see that, they see not only the struggles but where the wins are. As a life coach, you know you were successful with someone when they can understand the history behind something and can see that history before their very eyes.
I could argue that one of the best gifts you can give your family is to be that bridge to the past. There are precious family documents and photos that need to be saved, but maybe you have no idea what to do with them. Hold onto it, and stop to learn what it is.
Take those materials and turn them into something more easily consumable so that you can tie together the whole picture.
Discovering the shoulders we stand on is a valuable exercise to recognize the gift we’ve been given and hold onto that gratefulness. It can inform what happens next.
Sometimes you don’t know where to get started, so maybe either do it yourself or have someone go back a couple of generations and you will start to see some people who seem pretty interesting to you.
There’s something about genealogy where certain people will speak to you. There’ll be some ancestors you connect with, or maybe you see them like you, or they have a characteristic you admire-follow those people first.
Want to know your family ancestry, or just feel like you have a life coach to help you find answers to your questions?