A few years back my wife and I were greeted by our son and daughter-in-law with the tremendous news that we were going to be grandparents for a second time. This news was made even more joyous with their pronouncement that should it be another boy, he would be named William, after my recently departed father. Needless to say, there were some serious tears all around!
It wasn't long and the ultrasound showed us that, yes indeed, William was on the way! That got me to thinking that I should 'write a paragraph or two' about who my new grandson's namesake was. It was one of those times when you realize the difference in generations. Obviously, I knew my father extremely well. My son and daughter-in-law knew him closely. The 'new' William would never know him at all. So I sat down and began to type.
Now, several years later, that 'paragraph or two' has turned into a family tree that has more than 9,000 ancestors and family members hanging on its' branches and I have become a genealogical historian focusing on genealogy and family history. I have traced my family lines back to the 1500s in Cornwall, the 1600s in Bohemia (now Czech Republic) and my wife's family back to the 1700s in central Italy. We have turned our family tree website, using MyHeritage.com products, into a family social network that reaches out to and connects more than 200 family members worldwide. I've begun to dabble in the world of DNA for genealogy, although I am the first to admit I am a 'work in progress' on the science side of this one.
This journey in genealogy, which I am pleased to say is far from ended, has been one of the most marvelous experiences of my entire life. I rank it right up there behind my marriage, being a parent and grandparent, and almost tied with the semester I spent on Semester at Sea. Why such high marks for a hobby? Let me briefly explain some of the highlights.
First, there are the re-connections and new connections that my genealogy/family history work has brought forth. Thanks to genealogy, at my mother's recent 90th birthday celebration there were 12 newly connected cousins, all of whom we had never met before, amongst those celebrating! .
Add to that connecting with new cousins in places as far flung as the U. K., New Zealand, France, Canada, South Africa, and more than a dozen different States in the United States.
I got so excited when I discovered an entire branch of the family in Cornwall that I surprised even myself by getting airline tickets and flying over within a month of this discovery and spent an amazing 10 days in Cornwall being treated just like family! I was dumbfounded to see how I was accepted. Blood is truly thicker than water. I was welcomed as a brother, rather than a visitor, while the entire family put their lives on hold in order to introduce me to as many other family members as possible and to accompany me to dozens of villages, parish churches and graveyards. Oh, and of course to taste-test every saffron bun and pasty that I came anywhere near. I liked the saffron buns. I loved every single pasty!
Then there have been the totally unexpected discoveries. Finding ancestors who risked everything as some of the earliest American union organizers, finding the grave of my great uncle, William Morrish Phillipps, who was lost in 'The Great War' but whom was never, ever spoken of, discovering a Knight in the family in the person of Sir Jonathan Phillipps, a couple of Members of Parliament, and some very generous benefactors along the way. When you add these to the coopers, the carriage painters, the agricultural laborers, the gravedigger, brewers, and the pub and saloon owners, you start to develop quite a mosaic for a family. Plus the folks I have met along the way in the genealogy community have been simply smashing.
Over the coming months I will be posting here more about the exciting, fun, and funny things that I have discovered and experienced as I have continued working on my family history and family history for others through my company Onward To Our Past® Genealogy Services.
As I look back, I can wholeheartedly say that I have not regretted one single moment that I have spent expanding those 'two paragraphs' for William.
I look forward to going Onward To Our Past® together!
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