Genealogy and Family History

Genealogy, a relatively easy and fun family affair!

By Sam Johnson

"I Am My Own Grandpa!"

Many, many years ago when I was twenty-three,
I got married to a widow who was pretty as could be.
This widow had a grown-up daughter who had hair of red.
My father fell in love with her, and soon the two were wed.
This made my dad my son-in-law and changed my very life.
My daughter was my mother, for she was my father's wife.
To complicate the matters worse, although it brought me joy,
I soon became the father of a bouncing baby boy.
My little baby then became a brother-in-law to dad and so became my Uncle,
Though it made me very sad.
For if he was my uncle, then that also made him brother
To the widow's grown-up daughter who, of course, was my step-mother.
Father's wife then had a son, who kept them on the run.
And he became my grandson, for he was my daughter's son.
My wife is now my mother's mother and it makes me blue.
Because, although she is my wife, she's my grandmother too!
If my wife is my grandmother, then I am her grand child.
And every time I think of it, it simply drives me wild.
For now I have become the strangest case you ever saw.
As the husband of my grandmother,
I am my own grandpa!


     Maybe you remember this silly, old-time song originally made popular on the radio by Lonzo and Oscar and later by novelty singer Ray Stevens.

     The song, written by Dwight Latham and Moe Jaffe, was inspired by a short piece of humor by Mark Twain, who explained how it would be possible for a man to become his own grandfather.

     Well, I've decided to make this ditty the official theme song of our genealogy group that is meeting at the library throughout the month of March, because the song reflects both the challenges, as well as the fun, in trying to trace one's family history.

     And fun, it is.

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     When I asked members of the group to share why they wanted to work on their genealogy, responses included: "to better understand my ancestors and where they came from;" "to learn about family health issues that might impact our family today or tomorrow;" "to find and connect with family still living back in the old country;" and "to preserve our family stories for future generations."

     Then one member said: "I want to trace my family history so I know who to blame!"

     As you might expect, there are many good reasons for working up a family history, or "genealogy."

     Genealogy (from the Greek "genea" meaning generation, and "ology," the study of) is the study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history, and it has once again become a popular activity with genealogy groups springing up in many communities.

     Not since the TV mini-series "Roots" was broadcast back in 1977 has there been such an interest in genealogy and tracing one's family history.

     There seems to be several reasons for this resurgence in popularity of genealogy.
     One of these includes the large number of aging boomers who are beginning to retire and want to learn about their family background, and now have the time to do the research.

     This is coupled with the tremendous wealth of information now available on the internet, making it easy to access family history information from home. One does not have to travel to far away cemeteries or court houses, or write dozens of letters to family members and officials to get copies of birth, death, and marriage certificates, or to obtain copies of obituaries, ship manifests, military or census records.

     Much of this information is now available online, and today's tech-savvy seniors know how to access it.

     In fact, the current issue of "Website Compass" distributed by the North Dakota Telephone Company (NDTC) contains an article titled "Climbing Your Family Tree" which includes a nice list of online genealogy resources, making it easy to "branch out and discover more about one's family tree."

    Furthermore, with the proliferation of new materials and methods for making attractive scrap books and portfolios, along with the availability of easy-to-make and print digital books, it's only natural to combine the study of family history with the art of family "scrapbooking."

     Many of the new genealogy groups are actually a hybrid mix of family scholars and crafters, and the final product of their work together (whether a scrapbook, printed book, or digital DVD) often includes contributions from the whole family, including the children (drawings and stories), the young adults (interviews with grandma and grandpa), the parents (retelling of significant family events), and the grandparents (recollections and ruminations).

     Because of this, the "new genealogy" has truly become a relatively easy and fun family affair!

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