There's something very attractive about the notion of tracing your past. Being in the field of history has heightened this for me to what seems like exponential proportions.
It's interesting what you learn when you just start looking. My grandma Carolyn always liked to repeat her history for me as I was growing up. As she got further into Alzheimer's, unknowingly repeating these stories time and time again was a reminder of what was being lost.
My mom and I have been working together on Ancestry.com since last March to compile our family history, and I've even gone into my husband's family tree out of curiosity. There are some cool tidbits that we've learned about our family, such as:
--We are connected to Abraham Lincoln by marriage through a common ancestor. My grandma had a cousin who they say looked just like Abe Lincoln (and shared a last name), so we always suspected a connection but could not prove it. (All credit goes to Mom, you rock!) This is just the tip of the "famous person-relation" iceberg. Besides other presidents, we are related to two brothers who accompanied Lewis and Clark.
--My husband's great grandparents lived down the street from each other when they were growing up. I am sure this was often the case for people in small towns during that time, but it's just neat to see this in reality.
--I discovered that you can glean the coolest info from census records. My grandma used to talk about growing up on "the Bilderback farm" in the 1930s. We had no clue what she was talking about; that wasn't her maiden name, so I couldn't figure it out. I ran across a census record for someone in her line by total accident and discovered that her neighbors were the Bilderbacks! They lived on the neighbors' property.
--If we ever have a daughter (which I hope happens someday), The Hubs and I have awesome female names from both sides of the family from which to choose: Lula, Lola, Lulu, Ottie, Vesta, Stella, Zetta, Flora, Eva, Mittie, Lillian, Nettie, Isabella, Magdaline, Henriette, Ava, Iva, Nellie, Hazel, Pebble, Roxy, Milly, Effie, Hattie, Elva.
--There are also some cool male names from both sides: Rockwell, Emery, Clyde, Orville, Matheno, Keen, (there's even someone named Morris Morris--how rad is that?), Lucius, Lockhart (awesome.), Ozias, Absalom.
--I love seeing the generations come westward--first from Germany and Britain, then from Pennsylvania (or New York for The Hubs) to Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and finally Kansas. Just following the shifting frontier.
And some odd and sad pieces of info, too:
--My great grandfather and great grandmother on my mom's side were first cousins. (Another discovery by Mom!) Their mothers were sisters, and when my great grandparents grew up, they got married! (This gives my husband greater evidence to call me "crazy.")
--My great grandmother (Mom's side) grew up with a woman who did not give birth to her. Great Grandma Virginia's real mother left her family to start a new one with some man in the next town over but died four years later, leaving yet another child. She (Susanna) already had like five kids but left them. Susanna's first husband got remarried to a woman who cared for and loved my great grandma and her siblings.
All of this new knowledge...yet there are still things we do not know. My grandma had a bunch of old photos at her house that I remember looking through one time in awe. Some were marked with names, though most were not. We still do not know who these people are, and their faces haunt me.
There are others, but these are my favorites. I come from these people, so I feel the responsibility to apply names to faces.
Have you researched your family history?