To the Readers' Forum:
A pastime as old as the Bible and as new as "Who do You Think You Are?" is the activity of researching family history. What makes this such a long lasting tradition?
Finding out who you come from brings you closer to your family (even if they are passed away). There is a special connection when you find out your bump on the ear may reach back to the European monarchy, or your eyes and nose share a similarity to your great-grandfather's sister. I have discovered that the old well (now a small rest stop) near Buffalo, Minn. was used by a great-great-grandfather while he briefly lived there and wrote about it in his journal. We only lived 15 miles from that location when we found his journal records. As a child in middle school who moved from Florida to Minnesota, that information made me feel like I belonged even if the other kids made me feel otherwise (let's face it, middle school is hard on everyone though).
Learning from your past can be more than your trip to the doctor's office. I am of course referencing reporting family medical history. My mother had heard of an ancestor that went crazy because her husband died in the fields working in South America while she was pregnant with her first child. No one knew her information or her birth/death dates etc. My mother found her daughter's baptism records for Roman Catholic record of the area. She found the names of her mother and father and found that her aunt and uncle brought her up as their own. Sacrificing for family is wonderful to do, and don't go crazy. I also learned of an ancestor in the British monarchy who left his family and fled to South Africa keeping his identity hidden from the public. Sometimes it's necessary to leave a place you know well for your own good.
Besides being interesting and good for the soul, my favorite part of family history is knowing that my family is not forgotten. I cringe at the thought that in 100 years no one will know my name or that I even existed. I do not want that for my family, especially if they had children who died without children or died when they were children themselves. They do not deserve to be forgotten.
There are many resources online to help with finding ancestors and even a couple of places locally for more local information. Let's start with the internet. ancestry.com is a great resource for a fee. Familysearch.org is free and a good resource for helping yourself as well as others. I have not used geaneology.com but they are affiliated with ancestry.com and have some free services. The two local places are the Fenton History Center and the Jamestown Family History Center. They both have information online about their services and times if you look them up.
So whether you continue or start your family tree, don't be discouraged, ask for help when you need it, share with your family what you learn, and happy hunting.