All in Family Stories

Greetings From Siberia: An Unexpected Genealogy Lesson

I went on a genealogy binge about three years ago. 

I scanned hundreds of old family photos and uploaded them to Ancestry, along with some information my mother had compiled. Then I gave birth to my first son, and abandoned the project. 

I return to Ancestry a few times a year, usually when I’m working on my memoir and want to find a specific date. But I let my subscription lapse, and haven’t given much thought to my extended family tree. 

That changed last week, when I received an unexpected email from a stranger.

Inside the Box Marked "Crazy"

We had a family vacation at Raystown Lake, my mom and the kids and I.

On our drive to Trough Creek State Park, Mom said, “It’s interesting to see you work through your issues as a mother. It makes me wonder how different my own mother might have been if she’d gotten treatment for her anxiety.”

Grandma took an anti-anxiety drug for decades, Mom continued. But she always found herself needing more. By the time Grandma reached old age, she was taking a dose high enough to kill most normal people.

“The more I think about it,” Mom said, “the more I think she had a lot of the same mental health problems you did.”

A light clicked on in my head.

The Family Stories in Your DNA

My mom never made me a traditional baby book.

Instead, she made a book of family history. On the first page she drew a tree, and wrote the names of my relatives across its branches. Then she conducted family interviews and captured their stories.

I didn't appreciate Mom's efforts until later in life, when I became curious about my ancestors. Only then did I realize the importance of the book and the stories it contained.