For those of you who have had the urge to learn more about your family ancestry, you know it is not as easy as Googling your surname, checking out a book from your local library, or picking up the phone and asking a great-great grandparent to fill you in. In my case, some of the easy work was already started. The first several generations were documented, but the trail to previous generations ran cold in a hurry. Why is it that we don’t do a better job of documenting our family histories when our grandparents are still around? It seems like few things get passed down from generation to generation… maybe a family tradition, grandma’s holiday recipe or an occasional story of having to “walk four miles, up hill both ways to school in a snow storm!” And what happened to the old family bible with all the family secrets and dates?
I have to believe there were a few old pictures, but where did they go? In my family, few photos exist and the photos have no dates or names. The formats have changed. Even my childhood photos were generally 35mm slides. Not the preferred format to share in today’s digital world.
Much of the time, effort and resources in which I invested were focused specifically on finding previous generations of the Prokosch & Mitchell family surname. When I started this search, we did not know when the Prokosch family immigrated to U.S. We did not know any ancestor’s names prior to Franz and Barbara (my great, great grandparents) or the Prokosch ancestral village (we thought somewhere) in the Austrian Empire. The same challenges applied to the Mitchell family, my mother’s side of the family, which we now learned leads from Massena, NY back through Quebec, Canada and then France.
There are many challenges in putting together pieces of the family tree puzzles. Just a few of the challenges included: limited number of living ancestors, lack of vital records / documentation, aging memories, and difficulties in finding and translating the limited information that does exist. A key hurdle for me was dealing with bad, conflicting and missing data. I have experienced that if you don’t like the answers you receive, you may need to ask the question a different way or at a different time and you will likely get a different answer. I also found many records were lost over the years to fires, water damage, lack of interest or lack of funding to store them…In my case, many of the parish records were destroyed due to wars or political changes.
Many positive things have changed to aid ancestry researchers since I started fifteen plus years ago. Information and records are much more available. In my case many of the potential records were stored or archived at historical societies, national archives, state and county courthouses around the globe. Unless you wanted to become a frequent flyer with unlimited time and funding, you had to rely on hired researchers to go and do your leg work. While this is not inexpensive, it is better than the alternative… Many of the records for my relatives are in other languages. I started out with a shelf full of dictionaries for French, Latin, German, and Czech languages, but now thanks to Google translator, life is easier.
Technology has also made the ancestry research much easier… More databases have been digitized: newspapers, obits, cemetery tombstones, even some vital records are available on a subscription basis reducing miles traveled and mail delays. Technology is becoming the researchers friend. More digital tools like email, scanners, digital cameras and family tree software applications have eliminated boxes and suitcases full of paper and allows researchers to manage large databases of data. Another positive change is the ability of like-minded researchers to collaborate, compare notes and share data electronically on the Internet via forums.
Well, years continue to go by and some of the pieces of the puzzle fit together and many new questions appear… What started out as a suitcase of stuff is now a database of:
Generations 14 +
Average Lifespan 60.9 years
Earliest Birth Date 1570
Confirmed Sources 100+
Boxes of Stuff Many
Funds invested Too Much
Hours invested ???
A special thanks to all of you that have contributed your time & energy to this cause. Please forgive me if I have spelled your name wrong, I have you married to the wrong spouse or you have a few missing or extra children. I am sure we can fix most of these errors in the near future.
Best Regards and Enjoy the Read!