In the beautiful Mediterranean climate I get to call home, September is the month to celebrate a bountiful harvest. This month, I had the privilege (and oh, the aches and the pains, too!) to help some friends a couple times with the harvest in their vineyard.
While this may not sound like the kind of topic that would relate to genealogy, there actually is a connection. You see, in this same week between the two harvests, I’ve been reaping another harvest of sorts, too: a harvest of cousins.
The vineyard where my friends and I wrapped up the year’s work just yesterday is home to vines that are upwards of sixty years of age. I am not an expert in such matters, but I’ve heard it reported that whatever it is that goes into nurturing a vine to that age somehow impacts the product—once it is ultimately obtained.
Not that you have to wait that full sixty years to receive any harvest. I’m sure someone—probably at first the people who planted the vines and were the original owners of the property—reaped a harvest every year since that first planting became productive. It’s just that the mellow richness that boosts the vineyard’s reputation today didn’t blossom with that first planting.
Some things just take time.
It’s the same way with family history research. We have to plant. We need to remember to water. To do the weeding. And pruning, and plucking, and shaping and staking. To work through some pretty hot, sunny times. And then…wait.
I posted my first electronic genealogy query to GenForum in 1999. It contained a question about a Sarah Rinehart who supposedly married a James Gordon from Pennsylvania, sometime before 1820.
I got a few answers to my question. But not many.
I didn’t let that stop me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve posted questions, comments, or notes of help on GenForum since then. And I can say the same for Rootsweb—maybe even more, since I discovered Rootsweb online a bit earlier than GenForum. Admittedly, as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been at this genealogy thing ever since I could read and understand “grown-up” books. And that’s been a lot of planting seasons.
I can’t say the harvests were all that exceptional, especially at first. But you know, there have been some useful hints gleaned over the years. And a few happy moments along the way when minor connections have been made, especially those you’ve read on this blog, concerning research on my husband’s family lines.
This week, however—this week—I got to make a connection with someone in my own family. Granted, it is a relative of an in-law (my family always called them “outlaws”), but nonetheless, it is someone who knows cousins in my own family. The person who contacted me is someone who knows the people who, for me, only resided in my grandmother’s little address book. And she is willing to help me connect with cousins who are now morphing into real people from those static names written on a page by someone long gone from my life.
Of course, I’m ecstatic about the possibilities. This is a branch of my mother’s family that she, for whatever reason, never kept in touch with, either in childhood or as an adult.
What reminds me of the harvest today is this: the reason this total stranger was able to find me was due to a post I wrote on GenForum. I wrote it over seven years ago. Because of how genealogy forums like GenForum work, this woman was able to contact me, even after all those years. In whatever cycle of planting and harvest this genealogy season has taken us, this week we were ripe for the harvest. A connection was made.
It will probably be some time before I’ll be able to write much on what I’m sure to uncover of the stories from this branch of the family tree. And that is fine. Sometimes, the most mellow results come from the more mature vines.
That type of experience—waiting—reminds me that genealogy, like the harvest, has seasons. A time to plant. A time to reap. And a time when the older vines become recognized as the better producers.
Above right: Amalie Kärcher, Insekten auf Weinrebe (Insects on Grapevine); oil on canvas; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.