Was it the tragic runaway horse death? The penniless mill hand? Or my 90-year-old cousin's famil
How I was hooked by genealogy:
Was it Mom telling me about her grandmother dying in a tragic 1906 accident involving an early motorcar and the horse and buggy she and her daughter were driving?
"Burkeville, Conway, Massachusetts, Woolen mill," c. 1900; digital image, privately held by Ann D. Watson, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], New Haven, Vermont, 2018.
Was it Dad telling me of his grandfather "never having a penny" and working in a textile mill in Massachusetts?
Section of original, Ann D. Watson, "Dingman Family Tree," c. 1975. Pencil on paper, 48" x 18". Tree was taken orally and was unproven.
Was it the day in the summer of 1975 when, at a family reunion, my 2nd cousin once removed, Jean White, about 90 years old at the time, gave me the entire family tree all the way back to my great-great-grandparents who came from Scotland?
Maybe it was my reading of Alex Haley's Roots (New York: Doubleday, 1974). Although genealogists have challenged the research, the book made a huge impression on me.
All of that happened in the 1970s.
40 years went by. Those years included a Master's degree in education, a career as a school librarian, motherhood, and marriage and divorce. Also over the years, I interviewed my mother, aunt, and especially my father regarding family history, making tapes and beginning some online research as the Internet developed.
One evening more recently, after watching a fascinating episode of "Finding Your Roots" on PBS — or was it Genealogy Roadshow? — I said to myself, "Hmmm.... I wonder if genealogy is a career?" (And no, I was not one of those who think the questions get solved in one hour!)
By that fall I was enrolled in the Boston University Genealogical Research Program. I was on my way to becoming a professional researcher, as well as delving more deeply and more successfully into my own family's history.