My Thoughts on Being a Genealogist

by Joe Beine

I first started doing genealogy one day in 1987 when I went looking through a box of old photos in my parents' basement. I sat down with my mother to ask her who all these people were. And why did some of them kind of look like me? I drew a rudimentary pedigree chart with everything she knew. A few months later her mother died, my last surviving grandparent. At the funeral my mother discovered an unknown person buried in the family plot. It was nearly two years later before I made the discovery that this unknown person was my great grandmother's first husband, who died young and left her with a small child, my grandmother's half sister. And his name was misspelled on the grave marker.

After that I couldn't get enough of genealogy. I joined the St. Louis Genealogical Society. I went to the Denver branch of the National Archives and discovered my ancestors in the census records. I went to the local LDS (Mormon) Family History Center and ordered rolls of microfilm from Salt Lake City. I asked relatives to search for photos and documents. I got a genealogy program for my computer. No more hand drawn charts. And then, in the early nineties (before there was a World Wide Web), I went on the Internet for the first time. And parked myself at soc.genealogy.german, a Usenet newsgroup for people with ancestors from Germany. And made many friends.

In 1995 I went to Germany and visited the villages of my ancestors. I met people with my last name and with the surnames of other lines related to me. They got out cider and family trees. And we exchanged notes. And marveled when we found our common ancestors. I sat in churches where my ancestors worshiped, married and baptised their children. I went to an archive and looked in the actual church books (some more than 200 years old) that I had only seen before as microfilm. There was the baptismal record of my 6x Great Grandmother, Anna Maria Rinschen, written by the pastor on the first page of a church book from a tiny village called Hegensdorf in 1711.

For me genealogy is an adventure, a discovery of what makes you who you are. It is also about connections. Not only to people from the past, but also to all those distant cousins out there with your last name or one of the other names on your family tree. Every year at Christmas I exchange greetings with a young couple in Germany. The wife was born in Hegensdorf and her parents still live there, working on a farm. Her 7x Great Grandmother is Anna Maria Rinschen.

I chose the name Genesearch because it combined part of the word genealogy with the word search. I'm searching for names and dates and places, and sometimes even faces. But really I'm searching for that which makes us who we are. Should you ask me to help you on this adventure, this genealogy search. I will treat your family tree with the same respect that I have for my own. It's a most important part of who you are.

Joe Beine, May 1998

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