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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Uncovering My Story

I've never been a history buff.  I can probably name a handful of important dates and their significance.  For example:
1492 - Columbus sailed the ocean blue
1588 - Spanish Armada
1776 - Signing of the Declaration of Independence
1812 - War of
1929 - Stock Market crash
Most of this knowledge was gathered and instilled through rote memorization.

It's not that I don't necessarily care for history per se.  I do enjoy documentaries. When I had cable television, I would enjoy the history channel now and again.  And, these days, PBS shows a number of programs which encapsulate a moment in history.  I think my uneasiness with all things 'history' (even when the category comes up on Jeopardy) goes back to eleventh grade when I missed straight A's by getting a B in Mr. Hoffman's history class.  This still pisses me off and makes me feel less than.

However, last year I watched a television program called, "Who Do You Think You Are?".  Each episode of this show focuses on one famous person and follows them in their journey to uncover their genealogical roots and discover the details of their family tree.  The attraction, for me, is not necessarily the stars themselves but it is more about the process and story that unfolds.

For years, in the back of my mind, I've had the desire to research my own family roots.  Inevitably, and during the course of my kids education, there is a specific year, whether it's fifth grade or ninth grade, when the kids are charged with a project on their family's genealogy.  Because of this requirement we were 'forced' to uncover some names, dates, and relationships.  We even went through old photos.  This was not a painstaking process for me.  In fact is was quite enjoyable.  There is a bit of satisfaction when doing research and uncovering pieces of a puzzle.  It is fun and challenging to assemble the parts to make a complete story.  But the story was never really complete.

So, this brings me to my recent frenzy where I am gathering all of the information I have on hand (from birth certificates, baptismal certificates, and death certificates) to start building my family tree.  I should mention that the show, "Who Do You Think You Are?", comes off as an advertisement for the website,  And, this doesn't really bother me.  However, before I sign up and get my first two weeks free and then make a time and financial commitment to be a member, I want to gather as much information from my end as possible.  Why recreate the wheel?

Just from the information I've gathered so far, with the hard-copies of documentation, I've discovered that the story I've been told from the beginning is not necessarily correct.  For instance, and this is a biggie, all of these years I thought I was 50% Czechoslovakian.  Now, come to find out, I may actually be 75% Hungarian.  You see, it goes back to the time of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in eastern Europe.  It seems that what ends up being the area of Czeckoslovakia (and now separately the Czech Republic and Slovakia) was once either Austria or Hungary.  So, this project is going to require a bit of reading, understanding, and research.  I'm going to need to find census records, ships passenger lists, and any other documentation that will tell me where and from what village my great grandparents came from. 

I anticipate that the final product will be in the form of large, leather scrapbook containing all of the documents, pictures, and tree outline that will tell the story of me.  This will be a family heirloom that I can pass down to my sons who, some day, will be able to share with their families.

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