~Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. “Be still”, they say. Watch and Listen. You are the result of the love of thousands. ~
I cannot tell a lie. I am a history nut. I love it. But more importantly I have always loved family history.
Even from an early age I can remember having interesting people around… All of them family members. I was fortunate as a child to spend a lot of time with my grandparents. I loved looking at the photographs that they took throughout their lives and hearing their stories.
It’s no secret to anyone in my family that my paternal grandmother and I had a very close relationship. I was in high school when my grandfather passed away and as a result Grandma Jean moved closer to us. While my high school friends were at soccer practice, or out at the mall, I was at her house. I spent every afternoon I could with her. My only regret is not asking her about her family history. As a teenager I never thought to ask the important questions. The questions that would have helped in my genealogical journey now.
I picked up my journey again last year when I made the decision to start archiving family photographs. Now, in our family that is quite an undertaking. Between prints and slides we have to have thousands of photos. Undertaking this project sparked yet another. We have documents, photos, and letters dating back to 1845! Who were all these people? What were their lives like?
I fell down the preverbal rabbit hole! I wanted to know more! No… I HAD to know more! What I found is leading me on some spectacular journeys.
I spent a lot of time asking my mom questions. I spent a lot of time looking at photos with my dad. I have a close relationship with my mom’s cousin now because of asking her questions. I also know more about my dad’s side of the family… things I never could have imagined.
My dad’s eldest brother had created a family tree for our “McKee” side of the family back to 1180 in Scotland. With this family tree in hand I went to Google.
As I searched for databases that might help me find out more about these ancestors I came across the Genealogical Research System (GRS) provided by the Daughters of The American Revolution (DAR). Not expecting to find anything I typed in “McKee”. To my surprise I was very wrong. All of a sudden I found a huge chunk of my family tree! Cross-referencing the names and dates on the tree, I found my six times great-grandfather Robert Dunlap. Next to his name PATRIOT.
Wait, what?! What did this mean? How is this possible?!
For those not familiar with the Daughters of The American Revolution they are a national society of women who can trace their lineage back to an individual who directly supported the cause of American Independence. Along with that they work with veterans, are unwavering champions for historical preservation and education, volunteer in their communities, and so much more. Click HERE to learn more.
As it turns out Robert Dunlap served as an Ensign during the Revolutionary War under the command of General Nathanael Greene. He ignored an order to stand down at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in North Carolina and was killed in action. This was a pivotal battle in the American Revolution.
I was stunned, excited, and practically jumping out of my skin! Did this mean I could join the DAR? As fast as I could, I printed out all of my evidence and contacted my local DAR Chapter.
To my delight I was quickly invited to the next chapter meeting. These lovely women offered me more help in tracing my ancestors then I possibly could have hoped for!
Now a few months later I am preparing to send in my official paperwork and waiting to become a full member of the DAR! These women are some of the kindest, most fascinating, and most knowledgeable women I have ever met.
Their advice on tracing your ancestors will be coming up in the next instillation of my “Finding Your Roots” blog. This will include a list of important questions to ask your relatives.
Something amazing happens when you start piecing together your family history. You start to recognize similarities between yourself and your ancestors. You start to care for these people. They have long since passed but they are just as much a part of your family as any living relative.
This journey, inevitably, becomes an emotional one. But that emotion comes with a great sense that your roots are getting deeper and wider. It brings you closer to those you are not able to talk to anymore. In a way it’s very comforting.
Every tear and laugh is well worth the journey!
Coming up in the next two blogs will be questions and tips on starting your genealogical journey, how to preserve family pictures and documents, and more about my journey.