At this time of year, thoughts turn toward giving (and receiving) gifts. I have received so many gifts related to genealogy. First of all, I have made friendships with distant relatives. Of the three Christmas cards I’ve received so far this year, two are from distant cousins Chris Stofel and Helen Lowry.
Helen sent me a wonderful gift once of a photograph of my great-great-great-grandparents and their family taken in about 1880. Chris has sent me some wonderful information about our family, including my great-great-great-grandfather Shelby McDaniel’s Civil War records (he deserted!)
My grandfather’s cousin Lee probably doesn’t know this, but he is the one who got me started researching my ancestors. Some years ago — and my memory says 1990, but that may be off by a bit — he sent my grandparents a copy of “The Descendants of William Cunningham.” At that point, he had researched the Cunningham family tree back about as far as any of us have been able to trace it — to William Cunningham born in 1792. At that time, Lee’s chart was really more of a complete descendant chart for Amos Blakey Cunningham, William Cunningham’s grandson, as any descendants of Amos’s brothers and sisters, or aunts and uncles, were not included. Since then, Lee has added more of these descendants of William Cunningham and the tree is more complete. I had never thought before about where I came from or who my ancestors were, and I was intrigued. I used library time in the stacks at UGA’s library to do more research, but back in those days I didn’t know what I was looking for and scarcely knew how to take it down if I did find something. Still, it got me started.
My grandfather’s cousin Mary, who is Lee’s sister, has given me the amazing gift of a CD full of family photos. In addition, she gave me copies of several family photos of my great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents. She also gave me a photocopy of my great-great-grandmother Stella Bowling’s diary, which I transcribed. It would be hard for me to put into words how much these gifts have meant to me.
The best gift I ever gave myself was a subscription to Ancestry.com. I have balked at paying for the subscription for years on the principle that the information they collect is available elsewhere. However, once they made the census records from 1790 to 1930 available, I had to check it out. I reasoned that I would spend much more than the cost of the subscription fee in traveling to view all the documents they have available online. Frankly, I wouldn’t have been able to travel because of family constraints. I have small children at home and I work full time. My Ancestry.com enables me to learn about my family.
Several years back, I made my grandfather a genealogy-related gift with information about his family tree. If memory serves, there may be some errors in that information I’ve since corrected. There is also additional information that I’ve learned. It is my plan to give genealogy books to family members for Christmas this year.
If I could ask the genealogy fairy for anything, it might be to break through the brick wall I’ve hit with the aforementioned William Cunningham and to learn more about my paternal grandmother’s mysterious antecedents. I would also like more time to do research.