40 YEARS OF LOOKING BACK. . . AND LOOKING FORWARD

I have decided to participate in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks project for 2021.  This week’s theme is Beginnings, which is appropriate for January.

As for beginnings, 2021 is starting off a bit shaky with the violence at the US capitol this week.  There is still a long way to go with being able to vaccinate everyone against COVID-19.  Many people are still struggling with mortgages, rent, and job security.  I am lucky to be able to take the time to write this blog and share my reflections about genealogy and beginnings.

Thinking back to my first interest in genealogy, I suppose it was when I was very little, listening to tales from my parents about their parents and grandparents.  We had a copy of the family genealogy Descendants of Jacob Hochstetler by Harvey Hostetler from 1912 at my house.[1]  I used to read the introduction, pour over the pictures, and look at notes on the blank pages that were handwritten. I was fascinated to think that these were people to which I belonged.  They lived 200 years before me and I marveled that I was somehow connected to them.

At some point when I was in high school, I decided to work on my family genealogy officially.  The year was probably 1981. I don’t remember what prompted it.  I do know that I started doing it correctly – citing sources, MM DD YYYY, maiden names for women, city-county-state, a correspondence log – so I surmise that I checked out a book at the library, probably from the (now defunct) Everton Publishers, and studied it.  Soon I had a subscription to Everton’s Genealogical Helper and was making visits to the Denver Public Library, looking for my family.  This was all pre-Internet and I loved to research and investigate mysteries.  I had been a big Nancy Drew and Harriet the Spy lover when I was younger, and although I was not solving any true crime, I was still solving puzzles.

As for those who came before, I must mention my Grandma Johnson.  She had worked very hard in the 1960s and 1970s studying the Hurts and the Bryants.  She published a newsletter every so often for the family about her latest finds on the family history.  I have a few of them.  They are so old that they are mimeographed, not photocopied.  According to Vocabulary.com, “a mimeograph printed copies by pressing ink through a stencil onto paper, which was pulled by a crank through a system of rollers.”[2]  The unfortunate result was that, after many years, the ink that was used began to fade.  Sometimes Grandma would be creative and use colored ink, but that faded even worse.  The ones in red are barely readable.  I have the information in other sources, but one of my genealogy goals this year is to scan the ones that I have before they fade even worse.  She eventually compiled a family history titled “Bryants:  Yours and Mine”.

Grandma Johnson in 1981.[3]

Other members of my family researched ancestors and compiled family genealogies.  Both of my grandma’s sons were interested in genealogy.  I am grateful for the research that my dad compiled for our ancestors who fought in the Civil War, and the work that my Uncle Ron does in compiling surname books with long lists of descendants from a common ancestor.

When I began genealogy, I did not begin in isolation and I did not begin without a foundation upon which to build.  Besides my grandma, my dad, my uncle, and others, my sister is a genealogist and she has helped me out many times. When I wrote to everyone I could think of in my family, I discovered other genealogists.  Of course, every source and every fact still need to be looked into – that’s a bit easier now since we have the internet.

In the beginning, I compiled what I could from my family and their sources.  I then wanted my very own branch of the family to start researching, one on which not much work had been done.  I started looking at my OHL, DUBOIS, and OOTON maternal lines.  I did meet some new cousins who had worked on the family but there is still, to this day, so much more work that needs to be done on those lines.

It has been 40 years since I began this journey.  I haven’t researched consistently over those decades.  I have pursued other hobbies and have just been, in general, busy with LIFE.  Every few years I dive back into my family history.  I was able to devote most of 2020 to genealogy and I hope to devote a sizeable chunk of my time in 2021 to it, also.

May 2021 be good for your research, also.

Search smart!

Sara Martin


[1] Harvey Hostetler, Descendants of Jacob Hochstetler, the immigrant of 1736 (Elgin, Ill.: Brethren Pub. House, 1912.

[2] “Mimeograph”, Vocabulary.com (https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/mimeograph : accessed 8 January 2021), para 2.

[3] Hildreth (Hurt) Johnson photograph, 1981; digital image 2020, privately held by Sara Martin, (address for private use), Colorado, 2019.  Hildreth had the picture in her possession, and after her passing in 1992, it was acquired by her daughter-in-law who passed it on to her daughter.

Top Image by Christoph Schütz from Pixabay

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