When I was 7 years old, my family moved away from my dad’s extended family. As a result, we did not see them nearly as often as we used to and I didn’t develop the types of relationships with my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, and my cousins that I should otherwise have had with them.
On my mother’s side of the family, my mother was largely estranged from her parents, well mostly her mother. They had a very difficult relationship and generally did not get along. I can probably count the number of times I saw my maternal grandparents on two hands. As a result, I feel like I have missed out on what I might have learned about our family history from them.
Genealogical research feels a fairly significant void in how I feel connected to my family. Be seeking out information about my family, I’ve discovered things that have allowed me to feel connection to family going back for generations. My ancestors come alive in photographs, stories, diaries, and official records. I learn of my 3rd great grandfather Michael Reilly who had his grandchildren living in his home with him after their father disappeared while riding a New York ferry. I discover my 2nd great grandfather Louis F. Schillinger was a prolific architect, who designed many of the turn-of-the-century brownstones in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn. I find my 3rd great grandfather James Jackson Johns fought for the 30th Georgia Infantry during the Civil War, and died a poor invalid in 1917 due to an illness he contracted during the war. I found the gravestone for my great grandparents Marion and Lela Douglas, confirming information about Marion when before I only had his name. I’ve also made connections with distant cousins, with whom I share a common ancestor. Genealogy has provided me a way to learn about and feel more connected to the rich history of my family.
Happy Genealogy Day! And good luck to everyone in their own family history quest!