Why in the World Would You Do Genealogy?

Why in the World Would You Do Genealogy?

It always surprises me when thoughts that you think are entirely your own, thoughts that come from your heart and innermost being, thoughts you assume are unique to only you – when BAM! not only do you discover that someone else not only shares those EXACT SAME thoughts but, expresses them so much better…actually the expressing better part isn’t so much a surprise.
I’ve been pondering this post for awhile, when I came across a post written by Janet Hovorka on her theChartChick blog. I thought I must of written this and forgotten about it and mistakenly posted it on Janet’s blog. Janet’s superior writing gave her away. She wrote what was in my heart better than I could so read hers and I will just say a big DITTO! I was checking-out Janet’s blog because I am getting ready to interview her for this blog and wanted some background information before the interview. So stay tuned for that interview.

So instead of just repeating everything she wrote, I will elaborate on the 5 reasons Janet gave. This post is dedicated to Reason 1) “It gives me a sense of belonging in life”.
When I was girl growing up in Seattle, I had no real interaction with extended family. No sharing of traditions, history or even pictures. I was always very envious of friends who had those things – in fact, I felt everyone had those things but me…I was a kid okay!
I started doing genealogy at my mother’s side when I was only about 9. I remember writing letters to people in the small town in Kentucky with the same surname and to funeral homes, back when letter writing and actually visiting sites was the only way to get information. I was so excited when I got a letter back! I began to feel connected.

Clara Rohrer standing by Reverend James Lloyd Breck
 Clara Rohrer Mossman

One of my first connections was to my great, great grandmother Clara Rohrer or Mo-ko-maun-e-quay which means Little Knife. Clara was the daughter of O-taun-tug a full blooded Chippewa of the White Earth Mississippi Band and Daniel Rohrer a young clerk at a nearby Army outpost in Minnesota.

Family tradition – as started by Clara herself, was that she was an Indian Princess…I know the old Indian princess story, stop rolling your eyes and stay with me here folks! As a young girl in a family that moved like migrating birds with no extended family around, I latched on to this story. I was the granddaughter of a PRINCESS! How cool was that?! I felt special and unique with this wonderful romantic family history. I use to study Indians and horses – in case the tribe should ever need me to come back and take over the throne vacated by my grandmother…hey, it could of happened – okay on Disney, but still! But, this fascination kept me connected to my family history. As I grew older I was, I admit being disappointed to find out that there is no such thing as an “Indian Princess” in the Chippewa tribal structure, but I stuck with it to go on and discover Clara’s real story which was far more fascinating. In fact, I am writing a book about her and her ancestors.
The point of my sharing my experience with Clara is even though the story wasn’t true, it drew me in – it helped a lonely little girl feel connected and part of a family. Elder Dennis B. Neuenschswander said this: “Genealogies, family stories, historical accounts, and traditions…form a bridge between past and future and bind generations together in ways that no other keepsake can.”(Ensign, May 1999, p 83)
I found this to be true while working at the Family History Library when I was assisting a young soldier on leave. His father had been an inmate in prison for most of this your man’s life and he wanted to know if he was more than just an inmate’s son.

We all want to be connected, to be a part of history, to be a part of a family. Alex Haley, author of Roots said it best when he stated: “In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage – to know who we are and where we come from. Without this enriching knowledge there is a hollow yearning. No matter our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness.” That’s why they can get movie stars to sign up for “Who Do You Think You Are” – because we all want to know, to be connected and be part of a family.
By the way, Rosie O’Donnell is on tonight so be sure and watch!

That’s why I do genealogy. It gives me that belonging – it feels the vacuum. Help those who follow you by building a bridge and bind the generations. They will forever cherish you and your legacy.

©2011 copyright, Valerie Elkins


  1. Valerie, I too have similar reasons for doing genealogy. In many ways, I think we all share our need to belong.

  2. Very well said, Sister. You are doing an amazing job of sharing your love of family history.

  3. Another great post! I loved it… 😉

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