A Story All Our Own

So Tom and I finished our Genealogy course today — part of Butler County Community College’s Continuing Education program. What an absolutely wonderful class! Our instructor was Daniel Gladis, the son of good friends of mine. I knew him as a baby, and I can’t believe that he’s actually a senior at Slippery Rock College now — how quickly the years go by. He has such a passion for history and genealogy, and he made the class come to life in a way that only someone with his love of this art could. The world truly needs more young people like him — with a clear direction and purpose — it’s inspiring to me.

The class has inspired us. We’ve always been interested in genealogy, and we had been members of ancestry.com off and on for the past couple of years. I had rejoined about a week before our class and realized that ancestry.com has come a long way since the last time I was online. They added a whole world database where you can actually search church baptisms, marriages and other records from archives in originating countries. For example, I was able to find baptismal documents from Hungarian Catholic Churches for ancestors from the mid-1800’s. There’s now a military database, called Fold3.com and a news source, newspapers.com — all included with the full subscription. Most of these databases are quite incomplete, but I’m sure they’ll continue to grow over time. It’s just nice to have some fresh material to sift through.

We learned how to research other sources, too. While ancestry.com is a good place to start, we learned how to research other online sources, where to look for information, find archives and who to write to for more information. We learned about various cities for archives, like Washington DC, Provo, UT, and even St. Louis, MO — and digging through church records, cemeteries and more. Daniel even recommended some good books, including Researchers Guide to American Genealogy, Courthouse Research for Family Historians, Family Tree Problem Solver, and The Handy Book for Genealogists — all available on Amazon.com.

Did you ever hear of AncestryDNA? Well, neither did we. Daniel talked about it in our first class — through ancestry.com and other sources, like National Geographic or familytreedna.com — you can have your DNA analyzed. And it shows you relatives in their database (who have already participated in AncestryDNA) based on your DNA. It works on the premise that DNA strings are passed down through ancestors. It also shows you other data, including what countries your ancestors were from, as well as religious affiliations. It’s really amazing and Tom and I couldn’t wait to order our kits. They arrived this week and we’re mailing them back on Monday!!!

Daniel also taught us little interesting kinds of factoids — like what’s in the meaning of your name? My maiden name is Miller — Pamela Ann Miller or All Sweetness, Merciful, and one who grinds grain. It tells you a bit about your past. You can check out what your name means to with a website called behindthename.com. You can also do a google search and find a lot about name meanings too. Just things I never thought of before!

My biggest takeaway from the class was what this all meant — how our pasts actually help us find our way in the future. It’s not just about plotting names and dates on a Pedigree chart — it’s about learning about the lives on that tree. It’s your own history lesson — your own story. It’s about looking into the history that surrounded each relative — what was their life like? What was going on at the time? What inspired them? Today I went back in my tree to the mid-1700s for my 5th great grandfather — Lieutenant Colonel James Barry. And after digging around for a few minutes, I learned that he married his wife at Old St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia in 1763. So Daniel and I started googling this church, figuring it was no longer there, since they called it the “old” church. We learned it was located in the heart of town, near the Christ Church where Benjamin Franklin’s tomb resides. Suddenly you can begin to paint a real picture of early American life — and how historical events of the past really were everyday occurrences for your ancestors. I look forward to exploring this much further — and for all my ancestors. 

Looking into the past can help you find out who you really are today. And I’m looking forward to defining our very own story for future generations — a story all our own.

Always B E L I E V E !

Let me know your thoughts!