I can't recall what exactly sparked my interest in learning about my family tree. I do remember it was in the early 1990's when I was in the US Army. I was stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland which put me within easy driving distance of the National Archives in Washington DC. The problem was I didn't really know where to begin.
I can't remember who, but someone told me that a relative of ours, Mary Elizabeth (Lawrence) Adams
, had done a lot of research on the Lawrence family. A visit with her was arranged on one of my trips home and I was amazed at what she had discovered. She told me about a Lawrence named Cornelius
who went by the nickname of Neely. Neely had a brother with the crazy first name of Tartulas
and was called "Tart." They came to Rockcastle County, Kentucky from Montgomery County, Virginia around 1812 with their father William
She told me how William served in the Revolutionary War in Dutchess County, New York and moved to Montgomery County, Virginia after the war. She had a lead on a Baptist minister whose name was Elder John Lawrence. She had a hunch that Elder John was William's father and later research has revealed that her hunch was correct. After a very nice and informative visit, she sent me home with lots of papers to look over.
After returning to Maryland I took a trip to the National Archives with the goal of confirming Mary Elizabeth's conclusions and documenting my own ancestors from the point where my line and Mary's diverged. I'll never forget finding the first breadcrumb. At the time, the 1920 census was the most recent that had been made public. I found my grandfather's
name in that census along with several of his siblings and parents. That was pretty cool! It didn't take very many Saturday's at the Archives to confirm all that Mary Elizabeth had revealed.
After this brief beginning I did very little research. Life happened and I didn't have the time, money or motivation to continue. After a long pause, I was introduced to Ancestry.com by my oldest daughter. I was aware of Ancestry.com, but I had no idea how many records had been digitized and put online over the years. I quickly realized that I could uncover more information in one evening than I could have accumulated in a year prior to the Internet arriving on the scene. What a great time to do genealogy! What a huge improvement the Internet has made and eliminates a great deal of the inconvenience and expense associated with driving to libraries, court houses and other archives.
Until recently most of my focus has been on researching the history of the Lawrence family. This is not intended as a slight to the other lines I am descended from. I suppose it was only natural to begin there since Mary Elizabeth gave me a head start with the Lawrence line, that I have the last name myself, and that I grew up in the same area of Rockcastle county that my ancestors have lived in for the past 200 years. I am now hot on the trail of all the other lines.
One of my ancestors who has passed away said something to me that I still find funny all these years later. She wasn't quite sure why I was so preoccupied with researching the Lawrence family. Although a member of the Lawrence family herself, she made the comment that "Lawrences are mean both by nature and by reputation." I still get a kick out of that every time I think about it. Now, if you are a Lawrence and you take offence by that comment, you may want to pause for a moment of introspection and consider if her observation is true. ;-)