When I was about 12 years old my mother got a little booklet from a distant cousin which listed the family tree of the Way family (my maternal grandfather’s family) going back to the late 1600’s. For a social studies project that year, I copied the information onto the given charts and was quite proud that I had three pages. But, I had no understanding of the value of this information, how hard it was to get and what was missing. With that, I dropped it and didn’t think about it for a very long time.
In the late 1990’s my mother and step-father became Mormon and began digging through the entire family tree. In addition to the booklet mentioned above, my mother had another one tracing back her mother’s ancestry, again, back to the late 1600’s. She entered all this into her computer (with some help from me), and I got a copy of the GEDCOM file, which I messed with occasionally, and even converted it to HTML and put it on my web pages.
I remember thinking, at the time, that there must be countless GEDCOM files, like mine, floating around out there, and if you could put them all together you would have one huge family tree, which would be infinitely more valuable than all those individual GEDCOMs. But this was before Wikis existed and so I couldn’t see a way to get from here to there, and promptly forgot about the idea.
A few years ago, I started thinking again about this idea and realized that a Wiki was just what was needed for this. A few searches later I found myself at WeRelate.org. This was exactly what I was looking for! I promptly dug out that old GEDCOM file, and submitted it. To my shock, it was rejected! I figured a few quick additions was all that was needed and started reading. But it would not be so easy, and I put the project aside. Almost. In the process, I discovered the book Concerning the Van Bunschoten or Van Benschoten family in America, a genealogy and brief history and was shocked. This 921 page book details 4395 descendants (and many others who married into the family) spanning two and a half centuries. I started reading this book and realized what genealogy really was, how difficult it could be and what things can be learned.
So, when my mother was visiting for Thanksgiving, we sat down and I showed her how to use WeRelate and got started down what is obviously going to be a long road. Thus far, I have 277 entries in my family tree over there and have only scratched the surface.
All this is to say that you can expect more posts about this in the future, whether you like it or not.