A Family Tree From Roots to Buds:

Life in the Past Lane!

About the time I was midway through my first pregnancy in early 2001, the nesting instinct kicked in BIG TIME!  I had organized just about every nook and cranny in the house when I came upon a pile of old photos.  For years I had made empty promises to myself that I would put them in an album.  Now, faced with the need to put actions behind my words, I was determined to figure out just who these folks actually were!  This plan began with several phone calls to my parents and a visit to Tallahassee in which I eagerly rifled through all their long-forgotten drawers.

That was just the beginning.  Not content to just have names, I wanted to draw up a family tree and add dates, places, and other facts about their lives.  My first mission was to travel to Wilkes County, North Carolina, with my Mom to see where she grew up.  We took this trip when I was 8 months pregnant.  As a result, I was able to extend that side of the family tree quite a way back on almost all her lines.  Dad's folks were a little closer to home.  Most of them had lived in Decatur County, Georgia, since 1824, and Dad gave me a book in which also provided many details on his lines.

I was so excited to have all this information at hand!  However, I did notice a few holes in my data, and I was not content to sit idly by and leave any stone uncovered.  Off to the internet I went.  That was when I discovered, the mother lode of genealogy data!  I voraciously copied every little piece of information I could find on my family.  Some of the lines even went back as far as Charlemagne.  I was so eager to swipe names and dates from someone else's family tree that I paid absolutely no attention to where I obtained the information.  Then, curiously, I started to notice little discrepancies in my data: things like a child being born after the stated death date of the parent or a son who had two different mothers.  Oops!  Which one was right?

I began to realize that merely copying data wasn't going to work for me.  That's when I took my first baby steps to becoming a "real researcher."  I began listing the sources in formation and analyzing the data as I collected it in order to generate new leads.  I shopped around for the best genealogy software.  I started subscribing to surname message lists and lurking on the list for professional genealogists.  I collected many genealogy manuals and county history books.  I learned how to read old handwriting.  I studied maps and made a connection between time and place.  Those Georgia counties multiplied like rabbits!

Along the way, I visited many libraries, archives, courthouses, churches, and (of course) cemeteries!  I learned how to scroll through microfilm reels to find old newspaper clipping and obituaries.  I learned that you can even get reels delivered to your local library via inter-library loan.  I bookmarked a zillion web sites that became my arsenal of genealogy research tools.  I attended the Advanced Genealogy track via IGHR at Samford University.  I even made my Dad swab his cheek wall so I could compare his DNA with other potential male Rich cousins, hoping all the while that we could follow the paper trail to prove the connection.  The summit of my research was when I created my website,  It has been up since 2006 and has been visited over 33,000 times.

My goals, as of 2007, were to become a certified genealogist (which takes a year and involves writing what is akin to a thesis), to publish articles for a scholarly journal or two, and to give seminars and lectures anywhere I could.  I had already done this a few times for genealogical societies and DAR groups, so I knew I could be an effective speaker.

Then the other shoe dropped.  First grade happened.  My son had been going to a little Baptist pre-school at which he completed kindergarten.  Then we had to leave the nest and venture out into the scary world of public school.  He spent all of 8 weeks at a start-up charter school.  I got heavily involved so I could spy on his teacher and class to see how things went.  The classroom was unruly and the teacher used bad grammar.  After a week of sleepless nights, I woke Rob up at 3am and told him we needed to do something else.  I found a cyber academy (which you can read more about on another tab) and immediately enrolled him.  This meant I was going to have to make the ultimate sacrifice - to give up my beloved research so I could stay home and teach my kids!

Although I have had to put most of my research on hold for these past four years, I still have plans to make a huge come-back when the kids are older.  Whenever I get one of those phone calls where the caller starts off with, "Is this Gail Rich Nestor?" I know I am in for a treat!  It's some distant cousin trying to make contact.

One day I hope to bulldoze all my brick walls.  My ancestors are not going anywhere, so I know they will wait patiently for me!