Look around you. Who do you see? You may see people you work with, or other shoppers at the grocery store, or parents and their kids at the park. Now – have you ever considered whether you could be related to one of them – the people you encounter in your day-to-day life?
When I fell into genealogy, I was following in my mother’s footsteps and it was very much for me and my family. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I started to consider whether I could help others discover their family tree. But I hesitated. Was it the right path for me? Despite not being entirely certain I believed in signs, I was really looking for one to help me decide.
As tends to happen in life, an opportunity to research someone else’s family tree soon presented itself. A friend and colleague at work had been told by her father of an ancestor supposedly born in Ireland but she knew nothing more about him. I offered to see if I could find out more. And it didn’t’ take long to realize that family history research was what I loved to do – whether it was my family or not. But even more importantly, I got my sign.
My colleague and I, although both from rural Ontario, grew up at least 200km apart. And where we live and work now is nowhere near where either of us were born and raised. Prior to working together, we’d never met. There was no reason to believe that there would be any connection between our families. In fact, I would’ve bet there wasn’t. Fortunately, I’m not a betting woman.
As I researched her family tree, each generation back brought her closer to my area of Ontario, until finally I found a burial record of one her ancestors in the graveyard just down the street from where my parents live. I was astounded. I pulled the local history book off my shelf and sure enough I found her ancestors in it – living NEXT DOOR to my ancestors. Her great-great grandparents lived on the neighbouring farm to my great-grandparents' farm.
I took this as my sign. I officially started LilacTree Genealogy and very shortly after I was hired by my first client. A happy ending to a great story.
Except it was far from the end.
My first client found LilacTree Genealogy through Facebook. We had never met and had no friends or acquaintances in common. She grew up in a rural area outside of Ottawa – over 600kms from where I was born. Her family hailed from Quebec, mine was mostly from Ontario. I had a protestant background, hers was Catholic.
She hired me to find her Irish roots. And there’s nothing I enjoy more than digging out long buried Irish roots. The thing about digging though, is you tend to find more than you bargained for. Although most of her ancestors were from Quebec and almost all were Catholic, there was one line that had me puzzled. Their unique first names, I was almost certain, were those of a group of families of United Empire Loyalists from an area south of Ottawa. And these families were most certainly protestant. But how I recognized the names was even more intriguing – they were on my family tree. But surely that couldn’t be…
All it took was tracing that line back two more generations to prove it. My first client and I are cousins – 5th cousins, once removed to be precise. And just in case I doubted the research, AncestryDNA results made it certain. She and my Mom are DNA matches (I’m one generation too far out to show up as a match). We had actually joked about finding a protestant in her family; we never dreamed the protestant in the family would be me!
That ought to about do it for signs now, don’t you think?
My story is just a small one helping to illustrate that we really are all connected. But in case you still have doubts you may want to watch this video: The DNA Journey.
And if you’re ready to find your connections, I’m ready to help.