Trees (it’s not what you think)

With all the talk of birds and nesting around here lately, you might assume this post is going to be another bird story. But you’d be wrong. And although our woods are budding out big time, I’m not going to talk about that today either. No, today is all about my family tree. Yes, the geneaology bug has bitten me again, and hard.

A couple years ago I developed a brief interest in researching my ancestors, and spent some time poking around online databases and asking questions of my parents. I didn’t get far though, and soon put my notes aside. But after watching a couple more episodes of Who Do You Think You Are on NBC, I’ve started again. I dug out my notes, made files for each person, printed out supporting documents, and bought a 2-month subscription to Over the past week or so I’ve spent hours every day combing through their enormous databases — and my sore shoulders are proof of many hours on the computer. I’m also using the book that’s the companion guide to the TV series (Who Do You Think You Are, by Megan Smolenyak), as well as lots of online genealogy sites.

There’s a steep learning curve to this stuff, and it’s frustrating when you find you’ve followed a false lead for hours — or even days. But it’s all worth it when you find one small piece of documentation that confirms something about someone in your tree. I’ve started calling them my “gotcha moments.”

Would you want to go in that dark place? Me neither! (Photo courtesy of the WV Geological and Economic Survey)

I’ve traced one line back to emigration from Germany to the US in 1872. Another line goes back to Pennsylvania around 1855.  Other than that, I haven’t been able to find anyone who lived outside of West Virginia yet through four generations. And not surprisingly, most of my male ancestors in West Virginia and Pennsylvania appear to have been coal miners (and some of the women too). Thank goodness my parents and their siblings stopped that nasty cycle; some of them moved to Ohio, Illinois, and California, and broke the chain of miners in our family.

This research is giving me lots more interest in history too. All those “boring” facts from high school history class take on new significance when you suddenly find that your family is connected to some of them.  (Hey, that might be a great way for teachers to get their students more interested in history — make them do some genealogical research!)

One of the interesting things I’m working on has to do with a longtime family belief that my mom’s maternal ancestors were Native Americans. Their last name was Menefee. That would be the coolest thing ever — to find out that my ancestors were real Americans! But alas, I read that the Menefee name is probably Irish, not Native American. {Sigh} I haven’t given up on the possibility of finding some Native American ancestry, but so far I’ve traced that line back to 1856 and have only found “white” in the race column on the census forms.

I’m planning to visit my parents next month to scan in some old family photos, and I hope to dredge their memories to see if we can remember any other tidbits of family history that might help in my research. I’m really looking forward to that visit!

This entry was posted in Genealogy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Trees (it’s not what you think)

  1. Littlesundog says:

    As soon as you mentioned the name Menefee, I knew I’d heard it before. Working in the banking industry for many years, I was fortunate to know many people in the area. This is Native American country here you know… and there are some Menefee’s, though I don’t know any of them personally.

    Both of my parents can trace family back at least four generations. Mom’s family originated in Denmark and my Dad’s family from Germany. We have boxes of photos, and loads of preserved documentation. I never really developed an interest in genealogy, possibly because I don’t care to delve any further back than we already know. And, not having my own children, there is no need to pass that information on I guess.

    • Kim says:

      Wow, really, Menefee IS a native American name?! My research couldn’t find any proof of that, even though my grandma swore there was Native American ancestry in her family. If you have any idea which tribes that name comes from, I’d be so grateful to know. It would give me a fresh lead to try to find a connection in our family.

      I envy you at least knowing which European countries your family came from. As I wrote, I basically only found one line going back to Germany. I’d be satisfied if I could find out when each branch of the family arrived in the U.S. I hope to resume my research in the not-too-distant future.

      Hope you’re getting some rest this evening…I am! (Eric is in Washington tonight, and I know you’ve got the house to yourself too.) Hugs, Kim

  2. Jodi says:

    Hey Kim,
    I’ve been doing the same thing! How cosmic is that?
    Last weekend I walked around Providence looking for my past…I didn’t even know any of my ancestors lived there until recently. The unfortunate part is that even though the city has taken pains to preserve it’s history, the buildings that I searched for were all gone…but, I found out that one stood in the center of what is now Roger Williams Memorial US National Park.
    I totally know what you mean by finding those little clues…how exciting!!

    • Kim says:

      Hi Jodi! It’s eerie how often we think alike, isn’t it? You’ll have to tell me more — how far back have you traced your family so far? I just had another “gotcha moment” this evening — found the marriage license and certificate for my great grandparents in 1894. Way cool! Can’t wait to show my dad (it’s his grandparents).

I love your comments -- talk to me here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s