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AfriGeneas States Research Forum

[FL] Watering Family Tree Roots

Genealogy waters the roots of your family tree

BY LARRY JOHNSTON
FOR FLORIDA TODAY

Would you like to learn more about your ancestors? Did your grandfather profess to be President Roosevelt's stunt double? Does your family lore include common ancestors with Jerry Lewis and Tammy Faye Baker? I have the class for you.

The Brevard Genealogical Society offers a class at a nominal charge for beginning and intermediate students of genealogy.

A word of caution: If you do start looking, you might find more nuts in your family tree than you thought were there. Also, it might chill the next reunion if you announce the family's lineage includes Typhoid Mary. On the other hand, imagine finding evidence that you are in line for the throne of England.

When I attended the class, it was crowded with new and eager investigators.

Each student introduced themselves and the type of search they wanted to conduct. The students offered a variety of specific interests. One "couldn't get out of the South." By this he meant his family search has taken him through Texas, North Carolina and Mississippi. He knew his family came from some "original damn Yankee" but he couldn't find the scoundrel. We all laughed.

We learned women remember family relationships better than men. Within our individual families they will be our greatest source of reliable information. Men will know, well, less. In my case, I am able to go back one generation. Mother and father. Beyond that I am a little vague.

Why do people study their family history so intently? It breathes life into those family portraits. It helps you make a connection with your past. You will find people have had similar fears and joys throughout the ages.

We also learned a search of 10 generations will take you back to about the 1700s. Search every grandparent back 10 generations, and you will become acquainted with 1,024 individuals. This means you better become a good record keeper. Several books will help. Start with "Unpuzzling Your Past" by Emily Anne Croom.

One of the most important records for family searches is the U.S. Census.

We received a Census worksheet from 1930 to help us learn to interpret the codes. The polltaker was Pauline Meyer. On April 11, 1930, she walked the 22nd Avenue and 128th Street area in New York City. She uncovered a wealth of subtle and intimate information.

When each of these people opened their doors, they saw Pauline. Anton Forer opened the most expensive house door. His house cost him $8,000. Most of the rest of the doors were rented. The average monthly rental was about $30. Only about half of the residents had radios in their homes. They mostly worked in factories or breweries. No one lived alone. I came to know more about these people than I do my neighbors.

What an interesting walk it would have been to follow Pauline around on her route. You could take the same walk today and open some of the same doors.

If you are interested in opening some family doors of your own, call Vera Zimmerman at 453-4932 at the Brevard Genealogical Society.

When I searched how my family made it to America, I found the following entry: "Johnston, see stowaways." Those Scotch-Irish did know how to pinch a penny. Still do.

Johnston is a retired juvenile court judge.
E-mail him at LarryJohnston FL@aol.com


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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