Each of us have our own story of how we stumble, tripped, or marched our way into family history and genealogical research. My story just happens to have started before I was born.
I am a third-generation genealogist. My mother, Caroline Paulison Andrew, and my grandmother, Ruth Korte Paulison, are also genealogists. So, not only is genealogy the history of my family, but it is a tradition within my family.
My grandmother, Ruth Korte Paulison, got her start in genealogical research in the late 1980s-early 1990s, shortly after her daughter, Caroline, left home for college. Ruth started genealogical research because she wanted to know more about her mother, Alvina Maria Johanna Karolina (Essig) Korte and her immigration from Germany to the United States of America. Ruth grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana where she lived with her mother, father, and two brothers. According to her, Ruth did not know anything about her mother’s immigration or her family history in Germany because “that just wasn’t something we talked about.” So, after her mother had passed away and Ruth’s children had grown up, she decided that that was the time to learn more about her family’s history.
Ruth was lucky, as she lived close to the Allen County Public Library (ACPL), which has one of the best Genealogy Centers in the country, and could search for answers to her questions in their huge collection of records. She went to the ACPL’s Genealogy Center and once she found her mother’s immigration information, she knew that she was hooked. Thus, began decades of genealogical research.
I remember, when I was growing up, visiting my grandmother and seeing the boxes of photocopies of church records, vital records, census documents, as well as the big three ring binders, each meticulously labeled and organized by surname for many of the branches of our family tree. Ruth did her genealogy without a computer, as in the 1990s, while computers existed, they did not have the family tree software available today. She handwrote all the family group sheets, pedigree charts, timelines, and source summaries. Once she was satisfied with her findings, she would type those out and print them to put into the many binders of her research.
Ruth was a member of the Allen County Genealogical Society of Indiana (ACGSI), which I am now a member of. Her extensive research on her family tree, as well her husband’s (my grandfather) family tree, led her to being awarded not one, but two of ACGSI’s First Families of Allen County certificates.
Her daughter, Caroline, became involved in genealogical research through Ruth. Caroline remembers getting involved in her mother’s research because, “she had so many handwritten notes and charts, and I wanted to digitize them.” So, she began plugging in Ruth’s research into Family Tree Maker. While digitizing the research, she started to become interested in the family history itself. Learning what her mother had found made Caroline want to find more information. So, she began doing genealogical research as well.
At the time, I was a young child. I remember my mom sitting in the living room or at the dining room table with a binder in front of her and her computer on, typing away. I would ask her what she was doing, and she would tell me that she was “finding more dead people” or “researching your third cousin, five times removed.” As I grew up, I began asking more questions and wanting to hear the stories that she was researching.
During this time, whenever my family would visit my grandmother in Fort Wayne, my mom and grandma would take me on their quests for ancestors and relatives–to the library, churches, and cemeteries. I remember helping them find the gravestones of people they were looking for and finding it so interesting that some of these people were born hundreds of years ago and I was somehow related to them!
In second grade, my teacher assigned a project to everyone in the class to research one of their ancestors or family members and create a scrapbook or project about them. I don’t believe that I am exaggerating when I say that my mom was thrilled and so was I. Because I heard the story of my great-grandmother’s immigration to the United States, I picked her to do my project on. In a way, this was my first genealogy report!
In the years following, during middle school and high school, I continued to find the family history and history in general fascinating. I took German classes in high school (and later majored in the language in college) because I wanted to be able to read the letters that were sent to my great-grandmother in German and research my German heritage. By that time, my mom had written an unpublished book about the Huss family, a branch of my father’s family tree.
I began researching on my own in 2009, when I was in eighth or seventh grade, but began seriously researching my freshman year of high school. In fact, as an insecure pre-teen and then teenager, I did the research completely on my own and didn’t even tell my mother or grandmother about it because I was worried that they wouldn’t think my research was “good enough.” Looking back on it now, that idea was ludicrous–they would have been ecstatic. I even snuck into my mom’s computer one night my sophomore year of high school and copied the GEDCOM file to a flash drive, so that I could see my mom and grandma’s research and not have to re-research what they had already spent years doing. Of course, I told my mom about that a few months later when I also finally told her about all the genealogy I had been doing and information I had found, and asked, “can I please get an Ancestry membership?”
Over the next few years, the end of high school and through college, I researched almost every day. I majored in Germanic Studies in college, which allowed me to be able to research more of my German ancestry than my grandmother and mother were able to, as neither of them spoke German.
In 2017, I got a job as a graphic designer at a local library. Over the next couple of years, I was influenced to look into going to graduate school for a Masters of Library and Information Science degree and learned how much I loved working in a library. In 2019, I began presenting genealogy classes for the library, which I still do today. I was also able to attend a few genealogy conferences, prior to the pandemic, with the support of my library to expand my knowledge on genealogy.
After graduating college in May 2019, I was able to travel to Germany on a grant, through the Germanic Studies Department at my college, to conduct an independent research project on my German genealogy. I backpacked through different cities in Germany going to various archives, libraries, and churches, and finding records signed by my ancestors and relatives in the 1800s. In Frankfurt am Main, I was able to hold the birth certificate of my third great-grandfather, and his marriage record to my third-great grandmother, in my own hands. Being able to tangibly feel the marks my third great-grandparents made on their marriage certificate was like traveling back in time and meeting them in person.
Today, I am in graduate school for a MS/LIS, I do genealogy research every day, I still work at that library and present classes on Zoom once a month, and I am more and more grateful every day for my grandmother and mom instilling a sense of curiosity of our family history in me. I can’t imagine what I would be doing if my grandmother hadn’t decided that one day, before I was born, to go to ACPL and look for information on her mother, but I have a feeling, I would have found myself drawn to genealogy anyways.