Aug 312015
What would my ancestor think of me? At Losely Park in Surrey UK

As I visited the former home of Sir George More, the question came to mind. I do wonder “What would my ancestors think of me?”

What would my ancestors think of me?

I had my doubts recently, as I traipsed around the UK, seeking out locations where my ancestors lived and died. As I visited Loseley Park in Surrey in England, the manor home where my ancestors enjoyed an aristocratic life-style in the 17th century. Family members not only hob-nobbed with royalty, but also acted as treasurer for Henry Frederick, the then Prince of Wales and served in Parliament under King James.

As I embarked on our trip, I planned to visit “ancestral sites” more in an effort to “feel the dust of my ancestors’ shoes,” rather than to research. (I was traveling with a son who is not into genealogy.) As we drove up the long winding road to the estate, I realize they my ancestors probably seldom felt the dust of their own shoes. They would have had staff to prevent most dust-ups, and were their footwear to acquire undesirable soil, said staff would have removed the dust or other offending matter.

I wondered as I roamed the grounds, what would these titled ancestors think of my son and me. If we were able to time travel and present ourselves as cousins, I doubt they’d be impressed. Would they receive us graciously as members of the extended family? Or, would they be more like the character Hyacinth in Keeping Up Appearances, quickly ushering us behind closed doors before true aristocrats saw us?

Or am I being unfair? Perhaps they understood the inherent risks for putting their nest eggs in the royal basket. Those were turbulent times. Perhaps they were only doing whatever was necessary to provide for their progeny. I should be, and am, grateful for that.

Tomb in Lincoln Cathedral

What would Katherine de Roet Swynford and Joan Beaufort think of their 21st century progeny?

Likewise, at the Lincoln Cathedral, as I looked down at the tomb of my ancestor, Katherine Swynford on the south side of the cathedral’s choir, I wondered. What would my ancestor think of me if we had a chance to sit down and chat? She died at the turn of the 15th century. What would she have thought about the sheer number of descendants that she had created? Would she feel any differently about me than the royal family members? Would she feel honored that her descendants come looking for her tomb?

Your Turn:

You don’t have to visit ancient sites or plan a trip overseas to ponder this question. Do you ever wonder “What would my ancestor’s think of me?” What insight have you gained?

What would they think of your station in life and your achievements?

What would they think of your faith (or lack of following a faith)?

What would they think of the time and culture you live it?

What would they think of family alliances made after their time?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Jul 092015
Cousin once removed by way of staple remover on family tree.

A cousin once removed isn’t what (or who) it sounds like it is.

Why was my cousin once removed? Maybe that’s why my family dispensed with the first cousin, second cousin, and once removed nomenclature when referring to cousins: They knew I’d ask a bunch of questions, most of which would begin with “Why…” Cousins were just “cousins.”

“Once removed” doesn’t sound anything like it means. Unlike its general use in the English vernacular, when it’s used to describe family relationships, removed simply means from a different generation. I now think of it as “more distant in age.” A first cousin once removed might be a first cousin of my parents’ generation or my children’s generation. (See’s primer.) Continue reading »

Jun 182015
crest share surname history

A crest isn’t the only way to share surname history. Share stories too!

Aside from the “cock” part and the inherent playground emotional trauma that comes with bearing it, the Hedgecock name has a lot to be proud of.

Since I only adopted that name after my marriage, I confess to letting a giggle of two escape at some of the Hedgecock name jokes. “Bush-chicken,” for instance. My husband and sons fail to see the humor. Continue reading »

May 252015
Memorializing veterans

What’s Memorial Day? A day for memorializing a veteran–or veteran’s story

Are you missing the point on Memorial Day? If you’re a memoirist, or memory collector, you might be.

We treat Memorial Day as a remembering day, not a memorializing day. And what better day could there be for memorializing?

Celebrating and remembering is great. So is hanging out your flag. But, if we want folks to remember the sacrifices that were made decades from now, we need to make sure stories of our veterans aren’t lost. And what better day to do that than Memorial Day? Continue reading »

May 012015
Facing ancestors' past

How do we face our ancestors’ past and how does that effect our family tree.

We all saw Ben Afflecks’s embarrassment over his ancestor’s slave ownership splash across headlines. To me, the surprise wasn’t that he wanted Finding Your Roots to edit out that information. What surprised me was that the issue hasn’t come up sooner.

Ben Affleck isn’t the first one to look through his roots hoping to find royalty or framers of the constitution who found the reality distasteful. Many of us have had the urge to turn away rather than facing ancestors’ past.

Researching my own ancestors in Virginia, I breathe a sigh of relief when I see that they didn’t own slaves. Continue reading »

Apr 162015
Author Judith Fein emotional genealogy

Author Judith Fein writes about emotional genealogy

Today, I’m particularly pleased to present a guest post by Judith Fein and her concept of emotional genealogy.

When I gave my first talk about the power of Emotional Genealogy, I wondered if anyone would be able to connect to what I was speaking about. To my surprise, audience members asked questions for over an hour, and then they continued with personal questions for another half an hour.

You may be wondering what Emotional Genealogy is. Briefly, it involves examining how the behaviors of our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents influenced who we are and how we are in the world. And it doesn’t matter if we knew them or not. Continue reading »

Apr 032015
Are you a cousin? Are you related to AJ Jacobs

At RootsTech, we all held up “I am a cousin” signs. We’re all related to AJ–and to each other! (Photo credit RootsTech)

Because it’s not really about AJ and me. It’s about the fact that we’re all related—by blood, adoption, and marriage. Well, in a way it’s about AJ, since he’s the one organizing the Global Family Reunion. Continue reading »

Feb 262015
Memories Family Stories and community learning

Memories, family stories, and community learning were all featured on this episode of Dear Myrtle’s Wacky Wednesday

Dear Myrtle, “Your friend in Genealogy since 1955,” was the would-be storyteller’s friend on her February 25, 2015 Wacky Wednesday show (embedded below). And, as the guest on her show, I got a great taste of community learning. Continue reading »

Dec 162014

Pinterest is great for family historians Pinterest—the social media “pinning” site, is often overlooked by genealogy buffs. That’s a mistake. Whether you’re a professional or a hobbyist, Pinterest is great for family historians. If you spend any time on social media, consider this one.

What all the Pinterest hoopla is about

Pinterest’s popularity initially soared with the wedding planning and recipe crowd. However, the rest of the world is catching on to what makes it such a powerful and enjoyable tool. It’s a visual search engine and personal collection depot in one.

Continue reading »

Nov 112014
Telling your family story

How do you tell your family story?

What is your family story? As much as we talk about the importance of  passing down family history, we seldom define what that a family story is. Is your family story a compilation of all the individuals’ on your family tree? Is a story that takes place under one roof? Alternatively, is it a story that took place over generations?

Your family story can be any or all of the above, or it could be something else entirely. Continue reading »