Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What First Sparked Your Interest in Family History?

January has flown by. I can’t believe we are almost through the first month of 2022. Randy Seaver has an excellent challenge for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun this week:

1)  Daniel Loftus and several other genealogists on Twitter (see https://twitter.com/hashtag/MyGenealogyStory?src=hashtag_clickchallenged genealogists to share what first sparked their interest in family history.  What was yours?

I distinctly remember the two bits of family information that kicked off my lifelong adult obsession with family history research.

Interestingly, one of the triggers came from my mother’s side of the family and the other from my dad’s.

I’ll start with the paternal side because that was really more of a mulling over and wanting to learn more. Before I was even a teenager, I had spent time poring though old photographs that Nana had in a box in her closet.

I was very aware that her family lived in what was then Czechoslovakia, which to me was quite an exotic place! I also knew that my cousins in Europe spoke no English or else I likely would have corresponded with them. Nana told me all about my cousins, although she wasn’t aware terms like second cousins. She just knew that because letters and photos were from her family that I was also “cousin” to all of them, too.

That’s about the time I asked her why she never taught me to speak Slovak (which I now know was the Presov region dialect of Rusyn). The answer was that we were Americans and spoke English here. Little did I know how much cultural knowledge I was missing out on!

By the late 1970s, I was also asking my maternal grandmother about the family.

Like Randy, I was not influenced by the popularity of Roots. I was living in Mexico City when it came out and we didn’t have money to spend on American satellite TV. We didn’t even have a television in our apartment. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the movie to this day.

Instead, my interest was piqued by a comment that my maternal grandmother made about the Massachusetts family name – Adams. She said that we were related to the Presidential branch of John and John Quincy Adams, but not directly descended from them.

That Adams “branch” would be Henry Adams of Braintree, Massachusetts by 1632.

I decided I wanted to prove, or disprove, our family connection to John and John Quincy Adams and so began writing letters and seeking birth, marriage and death certificates.

I soon learned that my 2X great grandparents were born in New Brunswick, Canada, making a presidential connection not impossible, but unlikely, and indicating a very possible tie to Loyalists.

That is indeed what I found out – my family was actually descended from Edward Adams of Milford, Connecticut by 1640; 140 years later, Loyalist John Adams and family left via New York in the Fall Fleet of 1783 and began a new life in New Brunswick, Canada.

While pursuing my Adams family, other branches of the family tree began to blossom. I was hooked on the ease of New England research and started asking many more questions about my Rusyn family.

Little did I know, it would be my full time job after retirement. My husband still can’t believe I haven’t “finished”!

Thanks, Randy, for this week’s fun prompt.

One thought on “Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What First Sparked Your Interest in Family History?”

  1. Roots wasn’t what influenced me either. I didn’t watch it when it came out, but later when the series was replayed. I didn’t connect it to genealogy at all.

    Your husband’s comment made me smile. Genealogy is never finished!

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