Monday, March 31, 2014

"Why on earth are you doing this?"

This is a question I have been asked repeatedly.  I share stories with family and their eyes gloss over.  My poor wife has to hear about my latest finds and although she bears with me I'm not sure she understands.  I'm not sure I understand to be truthful.  Most often when I write to someone inquiring about something they've posted I find someone much older than myself.  They are usually surprised to find out they are corresponding with someone my age.  I guess sometimes the bug bites and once it does it can be hard to shake, no matter your age.  How did I get bitten?

In the 10th grade my English teacher Mr. Cochrane sent us home over Thanksgiving break with a simple task - talk to your grandparents - find out about your ancestry.  I thought it was a perfect assignment for me since I not only had all 4 of my grandparents still living but I had a full set of great grandparents (who happened to do Thanksgiving at my paternal grandparents' house).  I figured I was golden.  I sat down and talked to my great grandpa Nick Denhof (who was 91 at the time) and he said "my dad's name was Nick, my mom was Margaret Cook - they came here from the Netherlands".  That is all he would tell me and he seemed quite cranky about it.  It got worse when I talked to my great grandma Doris because she was given to her neighbors when she was 6 months old.  She knew who her parents were (and later it turns out she knew more than she told me) but that's all she discussed.  Quite frankly this lack of information ticked me off and got me curious.  I didn't have most of the tools I have now at my disposal back then (no computer, family tree software, internet access with databases galore) so it was a slow process but that's when I was bitten.  It's now been over 21 years since that Thanksgiving and I do something genealogy related on a daily basis. 
My great grandparents Nicholas and Doris (Colson) Denhof, Christmas Eve 1991

1 comment:

  1. I gotta say, Chris, I feel your pain! Well, both of your pains, actually--the glazed reception pain and the "I don't wanna talk about it" pain. Both pretty common! I think a lot of people in earlier generations must have been raised not to talk about stuff, especially the hard or unhappy times, or anything that would have been thought shameful back then.
    When I started my blog, I thought my family would read it, but of course they don't even want to listen to me talk about our family history so why would they look it up online and read it? Over time, I came to appreciate myself as my own audience, because blogging really makes you gather your stuff, sort through it, organize it, think about it, and then write it out. Later, when you've forgotten stuff, you can come back to your own blog and look it up! Very handy! A blog is also happily known as "cousin bait"--people who are actually interested in the same ancestors you've written about will find you via Google and you'll have yourself a new contact with info you might not already know. So welcome to the blogosphere! Have fun!