If you’ve ever been to a family wedding, it’s astounding how many people you’ll discover are related to you. It’s even more remarkable when you consider how many things had to happen for you to be you.
Genealogy is the study of families and the tracing of their lineage through history. Dora Meyer is the author of two books on her family history and is currently working on a third.
“Your family tree goes back as far as you can take it,” says Meyer. “I’ve gone back to the 1500s on my father’s side and 1600s on my mother’s side. I’ll learn something and immediately wonder, ‘What was life like at that time?’ and I’m off.”
Meyer grew up in Lafayette, Indiana, the granddaughter of three Dutch immigrants and great-granddaughter of two more. Her genealogy traces her family through her maiden name Hockema (originally Hoekema), which can be traced back to the Northern part of Holland.
“When I learned I had a unique family who were all Dutch, I was fascinated,” recalls Meyer. “I joined a society here to learn how to record the information to put together a family tree. As I worked back through time, I could to see the differences in how people lived and how dramatically our lives have changed. On my father’s side of the family in the 1500s, they were living in castles.”
According to Meyer, genealogy is like writing a book: You need to get away from television, away from phones, away from any distraction because the information can get confusing very quickly. The internet has improved dramatically since Meyer started in the early 80s. With the rise in popularity of sites like Ancestry.com, the information necessary to complete genealogy is remarkably accurate and readily available.
“I’ve been fortunate. The two sides of my family aren’t particularly huge, but sometimes you discover things in the course of your research that throws a wrench. Families split and are separated. People die. People remarry. It can get confusing pretty quickly. You do the best you can.”
Attempting a genealogy project requires a profound respect for history. Nothing happens in a vacuum; wars and other historical events affect peoples’ lives immensely so historical books are an essential companion for a genealogy project. For aspiring genealogists, Meyer suggests joining a genealogy society where people can explain the challenges they’ve experienced in their own research. They have a wealth of information to encourage you and it’s an excellent way to start.
Close-Up Talk Radio will feature Dora Meyer in a two-part interview with Doug Llewelyn on October 16th and October 23rd at 11am.
Listen to the show www.blogtalkradio.com/closeuptalkradio. If you have a question for our guest, call (347) 996-3389.