Monday, November 4, 2013

Cindy Crawford's Perfect Family Tree

Let me say one thing. Do not, if you are a genealogist, clean and purge your office unless you can clear your calendar for at least 2 months. I started in early September and I am almost finished. The end result has been very rewarding, but the process was nerve-wracking and stressful. However, my office supplies are now manageable, plus I replaced one large bookcase with a much smaller one, and freed up a lot of closet space. It was definitely worth all the work. It is true - having a clean office makes for productivity. 

Now then, where was I before I decided to tear the spare bedroom apart? Oh yes, I remember. Cindy Crawford on Who Do You Think You Are. This episode might have been what sparked my need to reorganize. It seems as though an vast amount of very successful research went into this episode. The results were fantastic and inspiring. A genealogist's dream! The perfect, effortless family tree. I, too, could do this if only my office were more organized.

However, we must also note that Cindy had a lot of things in her favor. The most obvious -- a wealth of professional genealogists at her disposal. However, her family also created a lot of records and when they exist you just need to know how to find them. As you progress from a beginning to intermediate to advanced family detective, you will learn how to do this. There are unlimited resources out there from books to conferences that cover everything you need to know from the basics to brick walls.

Also, she knew all 4 of her great grandmothers and 2 of her great grandfathers. No doubt she had a wonderful opportunity to hear many family stories. Some may have been enhanced or twisted, but there is always some truth in family folklore. This is where your basic research starts.

The fact that she grew up in a small town is an asset. It seems to lead to more information being available. I have found this to be true in my dad's family, as well as my husband's family. Everyone knows everybody. People interact. It is cluster genealogy and it works. In a small community, your ancestor has a better chance of being a big fish in a small pond. (As opposed to being a small fish in a big pond.)

The other thing that Cindy Crawford had going for her is the fact that her family went back to the 1600's in America. Lots of records for lots of years and no need to cross the Pond. At least not for a while! But when she did follow Thomas Trowbridge to England, she found even more records that eventually led her to Charlemagne.

Let's go back and look at what we can learn from this amazingly "instant" perfect family tree. 

1. She had access to family members who could provide her with valuable information. This is the foundation of your research. This is where you begin. If you don't interview the older members of your family (grandparents, parents, aunts, uncle, cousins) you will miss out on a lot of valuable clues. Some of what these relatives tell you may not make sense right now, but someday it could be the light at the end of a tunnel that breaks down that brick wall. Remember a solid foundation contributes to complete and accurate research.

2. Her family lived in a small town. Newspapers, compiled histories, diaries, gazetteers, newspapers, cemetery records are all zeroed in on a small area and easier to research. It is more likely that you will find a road, a hill, a farm with your ancestor's name. This is a clue to check old township maps which can be found at local libraries or genealogical societies. See who lived near your family. These people interacted daily, they might have even traveled to the area together. This is where you find in-laws and maiden names. Cluster genealogy!

3. Cindy's ancestors were here in the 1600's. The longer your family is here, the more records they can create. More importantly, the more descendants they will have - thus giving you more people to research in an effort to find the family members of your direct line.  Here again we are talking cluster genealogy.

As you can see, Cindy Crawford had the basis for a very successful research project.

One other thing that I would like to point out. Cindy's ancestor, Thomas Trowbridge "went back" to England. We have a tendency to think that our ancestors came to America and because they were so glad to be here, they never went back to where ever they came from. I don't know why we feel like that. Maybe we just don't want them to cross that ocean again. But they did. And we need to take that into consideration when we are looking for records especially if your ancestor just disappeared off the face of the earth. Please don't rule out the fact that your ancestor might have gone back to "the old country." It could lead to the one clue that would break thru that brick wall.)

There is a point from this episode that has stirred a lot of conversations among genealogists. Charlemagne! Some claim that if you can trace your ancestors to Europe, you are probably descended from Charlemagne. Others claim that eventually, if you go back far enough, we are all related to each other and European royalty. Then there is the fact that as you go back in time, your ancestors double with every generation. This leads to the problem that eventually you arrive at a year when the number of ancestors you should have becomes greater that the number of people that were actually in existence at that time. (Please feel free to take a moment to digest that little piece of information, if necessary.)

This means that eventually our ancestral lines begin to cross at some point. I have seen it in my family as close as the late 1700's. This could be because they kept moving westward in little packs of people!  But it is really prevalent as you get further back into Old World genealogy. 

I enjoyed this episode in spite of the fact that there was a lot of information packed into one hour.  I am sure every bit of information was resourced and is accurate. For the genealogists on this show to actually document everything would have become slightly boring. It is nice to see that Cindy Crawford is descended from some very interesting people, and of course, Charlemagne. 

Me, I would prefer to find my grandfather's elusive family. It would be more exciting at the moment. Maybe now that my office organized I can do that. Wonder how long it will be before stacks of papers will start showing up on the floor.

No comments:

Post a Comment