There are uncertainties in any big trip. For me, one of the biggest concerned our time in Bristol with my great-great-uncle Jerry and his wife Thelma.
Jerry is the younger brother of my great-grandma Becker. I first connected with him almost exactly 2 years ago as a result of my family tree research. I had found a lot of documents relating to his parents and their immigrations to America.
We have been in touch semi-regularly by phone and online since then. The idea for our trip to Washington had its roots in a conversation I had with Jerry about how beautiful the leaves and trees were in Virginia in the fall, and what a scenic drive it would be.
We traveled across 3 states yesterday (Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee) and stopped just inside the border of Virginia to stay with my uncle Jerry and aunt Thelma. We had a great time last night eating spaghetti and telling family stories.
The trees have been very lovely everywhere (except Illinois, which was somewhat drab), and now that we are in mountainous country, everything is so scenic.
This morning uncle Jerry took us to a lovely park in Bristol and later we took a walk through a wetland, which the girls really enjoyed.
We are all in one piece, and the girls did amazingly well yesterday. The hardest part of the journey is over. Today we continue on to Harrisonburg!
One of many neat things about doing family history research has been getting in touch with so many family members that I hadn’t talked with before. For example, I have enjoyed calling and visiting with Aunt Gertrude and Uncle Jerry who were my great-grandma Becker’s siblings.
Another good story is a man I met named Ed, who is (as far as I can tell) my great-grandpa Becker’s only still-living first cousin. His house is just 10-15 minutes away, in the little north neck of St. Louis city along the Mississippi riverfront. I didn’t know that Ed existed until I began doing this research.
It was a pleasant surprise to make his acquaintance. We have invited him over several times, and it’s fun to be able to share food and folklore with him.
He didn’t know his Becker relatives that well, but still he is able to remember some things from childhood and share some stories. In fact, I have been able to tell HIM some stories that he didn’t know, like how his uncle John Becker was murdered. He knew something about that vaguely, but had never been told the details.
He has also told us stories about living through the great tornado that hit St. Louis in 1927, about life in the heavily-German area of north St. Louis where he grew up, about serving in Italy in World War II, about his time in the fire department, etc.
A few months ago, Yoli brought home a MacWorld magazine from the library, which contained a review of some genealogy software. This little review sparked something in me and piqued my interest in family trees.
I knew that certain branches of my family are well-mapped. My uncle Vic Michel prepared a very thorough tree of the Renauds; my Nanny and her cousin George researched much of our Lawrence side.
I got excited about the prospect of taking that existing research and combining it in the computer into one big tree. Putting this stuff on the computer would also make it possible to share it more easily with people seeking info on a long-lost Renaud ancestor or something.
As I began the project, I also realized there were several areas that it seemed nobody had tackled (that I knew of): my mom’s dad’s side (George); and my dad’s mom’s side (Becker and Chorosevic).
So that’s been my hobby now for the last couple months. I’ve found a lot more than I thought I would, and I’m doing things I never thought I’d be doing, like writing letters in Polish to churches in Poland.
We’ve made some incremental progress on Yoli’s side, too, by talking to her dad and her mom’s brother, who can remember some of their grandparents and great-grandparents. Yoli’s family will definitely be the more challenging part to research, I think. In America, there are tons of indexed records you can easily access online. I don’t think this is the case in Bolivia. But when we visit next year, we’ll see if there’s anything we can find while we’re in Santa Cruz.
For what it’s worth, I’ll soon try and put my tree online somewhere on joshrenaud.com for family and folks who are interested to browse. (Maybe joshrenaud.com/family/tree?)