Monday, March 26, 2012

Building on a Legacy

I still remember the first time that I got my hands on a genealogy book.  It was probably in the late 1970’s when I first got my hands on the Gage Genealogy that was published by Rev. Walker VanTassel Gage.  It was published in the 1960’s and my great grandparents had a copy of the book.  The logistics of producing that book nearly boggles my mind!

The Gage genealogy (I’m not using the exact name because I can’t remember) was probably a photocopied copy of a typewritten document.  It used what I later found out was a fairly traditional numbering system that allowed you to trace generations.  I was upset to find that it didn’t include my entire family yet it did include a lot of details that I wasn’t of an age to explore.  I’m sure I was thought to be too young to appreciate the data and I’m sure older family members wanted to look at the book. 

I have a large genealogy database where I have kept over a decade of details and connections in a rather large file.  In addition, I have a library of digital images and documents that I have also collected through the years.  I also have several paper files (these really need to be gone throughJ).  I can go to the appropriate place and bring up an individual as well as all of the research that I have done on that individual.  For example – I can choose and ancestor and find a notation for every census record, marriage record, burial record or military record that I might have on that individual.  I can also show you what I have on their siblings, descendants and ancestors all at a click of a button.  I almost take this process for granted.  It has taken me too many hours to count to gather that information so I can access it so easily as well as trips to cemeteries, court houses, and libraries.  When Rev. Gage wrote that Gage book – he didn’t have a computer to work from nor something that would automatically search whatever records that he had.  Rev. Gage probably filed each individual on something like a library card or in books with family group sheets.  Making the family connections necessary to assemble a family history with thousands of individuals, records, and ties had to be labor of love.  He created a book that in some ways is hard to read and follow for the novice –but my great grandfather must have really studied that book.  Granddad Gage left that New York family back in 1908 and while he had gone back at least once – that book had to help him sort out the various cousins that he had met.

My mother and I did our own Gage genealogy book about 10 years ago.  I think it was over 800 pages and included the Gage, Gallup and associated families as well as the Shawver and Pitsenbarger families.  We had a few pictures and documents but it mostly contained our own lines.  I had one cousin who wondered why he was not listed on his own but rather under his parents.  We had to explain to him that you were only listed if you had children.  My father decided to introduce me as his daughter without issue when introducing our group at the family reunion which definitely generated quite a bit of laughter.  I realized at the time that all of the work that my mother and I had done was built on the work of people like Rev. Gage and many others.  After my mother’s death, it is now my job to continue our research and hope that I find some new young family researcher in the future who will take over our legacy and build on it!