Answering this and other questions through genealogy
Many years ago I stopped by Abloom Florist in Highlands Ranch for a bouquet of flowers. Picking up a business card at the register, I was surprised to see that the owner, Maxine Alcott, and I shared a surname. To be clear, my maiden name was actually Allcut, but our family bible shows a documented misspelling around the time of my great-great grandparents, from Alcott to Allcut. This misspelling was a terrible annoyance to my younger self as I longed to verify my relation to my childhood hero, author Louisa May Alcott.
While my research efforts have been sporadic and anecdotal at best, the Alcott mystery on my dad’s side, coupled with the fascinating ancestry discovered by my Aunt Sallie on my mom’s side, lead me to list my own family tree project as #1 on my bucket list.
Of course I enthusiastically completed a personal DNA test, which revealed surprises galore. 19% Irish? I thought we were Scandinavian?
European Jewish? Trace origins from North Africa? I mean, sure, we all come from the cradle of civilization, but why would my genetic connection be showing up in even trace amounts after thousands of years? With each answer came 10 new questions, and apparently I’m not alone.
According to USA today author and former LA Times columnist Gregory Rodriguez, family history research is the second-most popular hobby in the United States (behind what, I don’t know).
I wanted to connect with other people who shared my passion, so I reached out to David Barton, Vice President of Programs for the Highlands Ranch Genealogical Society (HRGS), to get some of my questions answered. Were there a lot of people around here who shared this interest? Could they provide pointers and save me wasted steps along the way?
“We have 89 members,” said Barton. “We have people who are very far along and others who are just starting out.
Helping people get “unstuck,” as well as offering educational programs about specific historical events and geographic regions, are just a few of the offerings at HRGS.
Workshop topics range from navigating specific countries’ customs and records to a recent workshop on the Spanish flu epidemic, which took 41 million lives right after WW1. “Many people have someone in their family who died from the epidemic,” says Barton.
“Does anybody ever finish their family tree?,” I ask David.
“Some folks pass it on to the next generation,” says Barton, whose own family history is documented in a precious multi-generational notebook.
Want to get started — or unstuck —on your own family tree? We’ve included a list of some of the most popular and effective ways to learn about your own genealogy. And you can always attend your community’s own genealogical society. HRGS meets the first Tuesday of the month at 7 PM at HR Library (HRGenealogy.Wordpress.com). The Parker Genealogical meets the second Saturday of the month at Parker Library (ParkerGenealogicalSociety.com).