Family Search and Roots Tech have been part of my life for many years. They are non-profit organizations that are free for you to use. Really free. Honest. They also help you get started and help you place names on your family tree. They believe that we are one, big family in this world (where have you heard that before? Love it!) and are anxious to help you find your family’s place in it. I’ve even, like so many others, volunteered to decipher the federal census. Why? Because they have been instrumental in helping me find ancestors that were lost to me. Maybe I should tell you about beginning the addictive, crazy search I started 50 years ago.
We were a mixed group in the neighborhood where I grew up outside of Trenton, New Jersey. There were many Italian families, some Scottish, Jewish, Polish, Mexican, German, Irish, a few Black families and even a Southern family. Since we all carried names that reflected our heritage, I wanted to know who I came from and where did they originally come from. Originally meaning the place they left to come to our country. Besides all that, it was a homework assignment from my third grade teacher.
Hmmm. I asked Mom because all the older family generations passed on before I arrived. “I don’t know” Mom replied. “They didn’t talk about those things back then.” Dad was in the hospital but did give me a few clues when I was five, before his illness took over. They came from New Hope in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Dad even took me there. Fifteen miles north of Trenton. That wasn’t exactly what I wanted now. I managed to learn that my grandfather met my grandmother at the roller skating rink in Trenton. She was the daughter of German immigrants and he was an all-American son of a wealthy mother. That was the subject of my first written story.
Add a few school years to my age and girlfriends whose very names announced their ancestry, made me curious. Bice. Had there ever been a Von in front of it? Hmmm. That name told me nothing at all. Add a lot more years when school was in the past and I started digging. Many letters were written and dollar bills enclosed for copies of birth and marriage certificates. Those were pre-computer and internet days. My digging began in libraries. When I traveled, the local telephone books got a thorough thumbing through. Never did I find another Bice.
Computers and the internet grew from babyhood to expensive Ancestry.com and finally free Family Search and Roots Tech.
Have I got stories to tell you!
Photo by Eilis Garvey on Unsplash