Melody Kramer

Genealogy Is Not A Young Persons Game

04 May 2015

Hi everyone,

I asked my friend Mary if she would guest write a newsletter, because I just like the way her brain works. When I met Mary, she was living in an apartment full of books in Philadelphia, with a rooftop view of the entire city. She’s a great cook, a great listener, and one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. She’s going to tell you about her passion: genealogy.

“Genealogy is not a young person’s game.

In your twenties you’re busy establishing yourself; maybe by your thirties you’re busy establishing a family. Your forties, you’re in the depths of your career. And then, when most of the elderly people in your family have passed away, you finally decide to look at your family tree.

I started when I was 27. I got an itchy curiousity. It began with a question: did my grandparents, as the family legend had it, really help their distant cousins get out of Europe in advance of the Holocaust? There was a short answer. The long answer is that I’m now writing a book about my family and about the refugee crisis that preceded the so-called Final Solution. Answering this question led places I’d never imagine I’d go, put me in touch with relatives who didn’t even know I existed. These are people I now hold close and dear, even if “second cousin twice removed” sounds very distant.

So here’s your task: ask your mom, your dad, your grandparents, your cousin, your aunts and uncles. Ask them a question about your family. There’s a mystery there, somewhere. If you want, send me your question or some details about your family mystery and I’ll help you get on the path to solving it. Asking a question can lead you down a road you didn’t know existed. There’s going to be a short answer, and there’s going to be a long one, I guarantee.

If your family doesn’t interest you (although this genealogist manque says “It should!”) find that place in your life where you can ask a question. Make it something open-ended, but specific. Share that question with me, too, if you’re inclined, and what you think the short and long answers are.”

Mary’s email address is maryfduffy AT gmail DOT com

Coming later this week: the results from the random people generator experiment, a small post about how I manage time, and rethinking breast milk. Seriously.

Have a great day! Mel

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