The first time I heard about genealogy was at a family reunion in 1992. I was eleven years old and captivated by the research Agnes McWeeny Johnston brought to our annual Johnston Family gathering — stories of land grants, wagon trains, illegitimate children, horse-thievery, and murder. I remember pouring over our family tree on long sheets of dot-matrix printer paper, and I wanted to learn more.
But genealogy was a completely inaccessible hobby for a pre-teen, pre-Internet. To do family history research, you needed free time to travel to distant courthouses, and that pesky commitment called fifth grade was in my way. Also, a car (and driver’s license) are required to get to exotic locations like Leake County, Mississippi. Finances were a final barrier — money for stamps, photocopies, and record search fees add up quickly for a twelve year old. Genealogy would just have to wait.
I remembered my interest in genealogy numerous times as I — and the Internet — grew up. I would occasionally look at free resources online, but I had other commitments demanding my attention — college, career, newlywed years. I finally decided to dive into genealogy in 2012. I was a stay-at-home mom with some free time and disposable income, so I joined Ancestry. I also discovered Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research in my new home of Houston, Texas. For the first time since I was twelve years old, I had seemingly limitless resources to find out more about my family history.
I’ve continued this pursuit of history and my family tree for over four years, adding DNA analysis, family history tourism, and now blogging to my ways of exploring this passion. With HistorTree, I aim to discover my family’s past and how it fits in the context of history. I’m especially eager to document specific points in time when my ancestors interacted with historical events, making history personal for my sons and any of you who read along with us.
Jessica Horne Collins