My cousin M__ was always into genealogy, and while I was interested in pursuing family history, I never bothered until June of 2015. I took the plunge, subscribed to Ancestry.com, and the rest is...history. It's been so rewarding to me because for most of my life, I only knew a few, vague details about my history, especially on my mother's side, but even on my father's side. New names and connections have popped up that have been fascinating.
Here are a few things I've learned:
The rest is an unfolding mystery that gets more and more interesting as I go. Thus, I wanted to put a few profiles of the people I found through my family history and share a little of their lives with you.
I'm coming to the conclusion that a good portion of doing genealogy is speculation, within reason. One thing I've noticed after a couple of months of doing this is that people's research skills are pretty sloppy--they see a name on Ancestry and just grab it and add it to their family tree, not always paying attention to dates. Thus, I've seen family trees where the children are 50 years older than the parents! So be careful and do a lot of cross-checking, should you take the plunge into family history. Even when your heritage is well-documented, as is part of mine, you still need to be careful, especially as you approach the world of medieval aristocratic politics.
It's oh so easy to get stuck there, floating out there in the 10th century, trying to distinguish this William from this Ermengarde from this Fulk from that Geoffrey--is that Geoffrey I? II? IV? VII? And wait, his mother was Ermengarde or Gerberge or are they the same woman, and was this her first or her third marriage or was she a concubine or a mistress? Whew! Exhausting!
What all this has done is to break history wide open for me, and has made me realize how complicated history really is because it's a series of human relationships. Take medieval English history, for example, both before and after Henry II of England (my 21st great-grandfather). He descended from the house of Plantagenet, and his descendants became future monarchs of England, but the women they married and brought to England are mostly French, from the Old Country. Along with that, I have started to see the reality of royal and aristocratic intermarriage, even if the years are spread apart. For example, my 25th great grandmother, Ermengarde d'Anjou married a second husband, Guillaume Taillefer, Count of Angouleme--if you follow the line from one of their sons, you ultimately arrive at Isabella d'Anglouleme, who married the evil King John Lackland. John, on the other hand, being the son of Henry II, is cousin to Ermengarde, whose brother would have been a great grandfather x however many.
Crazy, right? But so much FUN!
For most of my life, I knew only a little of my family history. When I joined Ancestry.com in 2015, I started to see just how extraordinary making those family connections is.