Did I spell that right? Ge-neeee-ology. The study of “where are we from?” and “how did we get here?”.  I have always been fascinated by family history. My maternal grandfather was too; he kept track of family history by typing (!) everything out and cataloging (!) everything neatly in 5 x 8″ 3-ring binders. As a kid I would spend hours reading through those pages; I’ve always geeked out on office supplies and definitely appreciated the corner-rounded, 3-ring paper he used–just like my own notebook paper, same red and blue lines, but smaller, which obviously made it better. He had notebooks for each of his siblings and traced the births and deaths of all of their kin, neatly typed out in seemingly nondescript binders.

My grandpa also kept track of the family he created using the latest technology available to him–the 8 mm camera . My Aunt Rosie went to Girls Poly here in PDX and marched in the Rose Festival Parades, all of which her proud dad captured on film–I think she graduated in 1960 or 1961 so they’re charmingly grainy and most definitely retro. I didn’t appreciate those films as a child–I did like the Keystone Cops films he had–my grandpa was a big fan of that silly humor, I am too, I love Buster Keaton. I am so glad for them now and want to watch them again and again.

What does all of this matter? Why the interest now? Part of my interest is (good gawd) from aging. I’m nearing 40 and I would like to be able to hand my children a neat and tidy book…possibly even a scrapbook….that traces their family history. Also, my grandmother passed away last summer. She was my last grandparent alive and even though I heard many wonderful–and weird–stories from her, I have always wanted a record, evidence, documentation. Her large family was Roman Catholic–they lived in a sod house on the prairie in Sasketchewan. In the summer they picked fresh carrots from the ground and ate them like candy. When they were punished, their father threw hard, dried corn kernels on a corner of the dirt floor in the sod house and they had to pray. This is my family history?! Who were these people?!

I kept a journal when I traveled, I have my passport–what have my ancestors left for me to discover? I have bits and pieces; my grandmother’s passport, a hardcover book that mentions what might be some of my grandfather’s family up in Raymond, Alberta. I recognize names but want to know who belongs where? And once that is determined, where did they come from? Is family still there, wanting to know what happened to family that came to the US and Canada?

I’m starting with my local public library and I have found the process:

1) easy

2) rewarding

3) exciting!!

which means you can do this too. I’ve started gathering census records. If you live in Portland and/or have access to the databases at Multnomah County Library:

go to>research>databases a-z>HeritageQuest Online

Key in your library card account number to access the database. If you don’t have a MCL card, check with your local public library, it’s likely they subscribe to a similar database.

HeritageQuest Online has several main sections for you to search: Census, Books, PERSI, Revolutionary War, Freedman’s Bank, and U.S. Serial Set. Because I have just scratched the surface of this, I thought I’d start by gathering names, which was easy to do using the Census. When I was a kid my dad had said our name was originally spelled with two “n’s”, making “Bramman” “Brammann”. I didn’t believe him…until I saw the census record of his grandfather: Henry Brammann. Whoa. Shocker. I recognize those names…his aunts and uncles. Now I have more names to research, more family history to trace. I’d heard stories of his uncle “Dutch” being a POW in WWII–my initial search has turned up LOTS of information. Thank God for google!!

My public library has a page on their website dedicated to genealogy: I intend to make greater use of this once I delve deeper into my family history. Some of the information I hope to find includes:

1) dates: births, deaths, dates of arrival in the U.S. and Canada

2) places: what country did they come from and where exactly did they land when they came here

3) names: I am curious to know the women’s names especially

Once I have determined this information I will share it…somehow. My maternal cousin and I have created an online family tree. It’s free and easy to make one yourself, google “online family tree” and you will come up with many great sites that are designed to help you share your family’s history online–we used I am considering doing this in greater depth as well for my dad’s side of the family. What I find so convenient is that my relatives around the country can go online, log in, and see what I’ve posted as well as add to my historical record. I have posted photographs, census records, and names/dates/places that I have found.

Being an artist, I know I will likely create something tangible…I just haven’t figured that part out yet. Please feel free to share your thoughts, ideas, and tips on researching one’s family history. Thank you for reading my blog, let’s get the conversation going!

Published in: on July 26, 2009 at 2:35 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Welcome to the genealogy world on-line. If you haven’t already, do think about joining the Genea-Bloggers group,
    And for your Canadian roots, do have a look first at the many records and the good advice at Library & Archives Canada’s Canadian Genealogy Centre – all free!

  2. Find a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints nearby. They have an excellent family history library. You can also have them order microfilm or microfiche from the main library in Salt Lake City for a small fee. I’m not a Mormon but you don’t have to be to use their library. I found most of my info from using their library. More info is available on their site.

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