So now the sermon. Thirty plus years ago when I started researching my family, I would hear people say: "I'll get started when I retire." I would tell them, "Don't wait, start now!" People would look at me like I was crazy. I am going to give some good reasons to some of you younger readers why you shouldn't wait.
- This is the big one. Will you be able to retire? Will you live that long? Don't laugh. Retirement age is no longer 65. I was lucky and was able to retire at 54. By then though, so many of my ancestors were gone, including my dad.
- Speaking of ancestors, the younger you are, the more likely you'll be able to speak to your ancestors. These include parents, grandparents and if you are really lucky, great-grandparents. Don't forget aunts, uncles and cousins. My father died before I retired. My birth grandmothers both died when my parents were children. I never got the genealogy bug as a child, but fortunately, my uncle sat down with his father (my maternal grandfather) and interviewed him about the family.
- Family stories. The more people whom you can ask about your family origins, the more you have to work with. My dad always thought his Bowman line was English or Scots. We were both surprised to find out his Bowmans were Baumann. There were clues there. Such as his grandmother Bowman making sauerkraut on a regular basis. My mother's father always said the family was French. They were from Alsace which was like a ping-pong ball. French-German-French-German-French. They spoke German. My immigrant ancestors were born at a time when Alsace belonged to France. They left in the 1830s. On the census where it asks what language is spoken in the home (in the 20th century censuses) they said they spoke German in the home. This was my great-grandfather, the only child born in America. My mother learned to cook from her aunt Rose. Rose knew how to cook German dishes. Unfortunately, my dad hated German cooking, so we didn't get to eat stuff my mom learned to cook from her aunt.
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