A friend told me that her mother just retired from her long-time job as a prison guard and didn’t know what to do with herself. She hadn’t wanted to retire, but apparently had reached mandatory retirement age. Luckily I never faced this problem; instead I’m wondering if I’m capable of cutting back a little so I can have more free time. My friend and her husband have recently gotten fired up about researching their respective family histories, and are delighted with their experiences exploring ancestry.com. I checked it out today and it does seem like a great resource, what with its census records, voter lists, birth and death records, newspapers, school yearbooks and more. They are going to visit her mom over Spring Break in hopes that they can inspire her to get equally excited to learn more about her antecedents, thus providing her with an activity that will help during this transition from work to retirement.
Normally genealogy is a passion of older folks, which my friend is not. Since I retired, it has become a topic of interest to me, especially since I recently re-read one relative’s 37-page typed history of my grandmother’s side of the family going back many generations. One reason I think interest in family history comes alive in older people is that we have more time to investigate the past. Also, we are in a more reflective stage of our lives, no longer worried about building a career, a family, or moving forward. It’s time to take a look back, not only into our lives but those of family members who came before us. I also believe that connecting information about the ancestor with the historical period in which he or she lived would help make a personal connection to history, something that often seems dry and boring. Of course there’s always someone doing the research in hopes of discovering a prince or duchess in their family tree. While I imagine spending a lot of time searching for royal blood in one’s past will lead to disappointment, I did read this quote from an article on genealogy: “And every single one of us has a family member or two who have accomplished something notable.” My husband is related to a signer of the Declaration of Independence. I really hope one notable is sufficient for him and he doesn’t also manage to trace a connection to a duke or earl, especially since I’m pretty sure (from reading the little family history I have) that many generations back one or more of my ancestors were slave owners in Virginia. In order to get a more complete picture, I’d like to go back even further, as well as fill in the holes between the 1600’s and the present. Let the journey backwards begin.