A few years ago I started putting together a family tree. A lot of work, a lot of paper and at times a fair bit of guessing was involved. Times have moved on in those few years since I last was really involved. There are now websites where you can make your tree and then get connections with lots of other trees from people doing the same thing!
Occasionally that results in a big question mark for me! Why, in a family that hails from one province in the Netherlands, does one person die in Emden in Germany? And then my eye fell to one single word: balling, which means excile! He was exciled from the Netherlands? Why?? It took a fair bit of digging and going through records, but I think I found some sort of answer. In short: he didn't agree with the Spanish who ruled the country and felt he only had one way out: Germany.
When researching him, I found out he had been to University in Belgium and cross checking some other names in my tree, I found several others who had also been to university. One in Germany and one in France (where he was arrested for murder, still to look into it).
I found somebody who died at the siege of Franeker in 1500, a letter from a mother to her son who serves in the army in 1853, both are ancestors of mine! That same mother had another son who moved to America in 1893 with four of his sons (I call them the Faber Five).
Now, all those people hail from my paternal side. On my maternal side I have the fantastic letter from my grandmother that she wrote to me in 1983 (a school project about the war). An ancestor with red hair who served in the army for five years around 1840. You're wondering how I know he had red hair: well, his draft notice told me so. Red hair and freckles! I know some of my ancestors were turn skippers (they were allowed to move freight in turn on the River Lek), there was an artist somewhere and several mayors, council members and the like. And I think I saw a few murders come past as well!
I actually went back all the way to Roman times a few years ago. Not terribly reliable, but good fun nonetheless. Charles the Great (the great unifier of Europe) was found as well, which I felt was terribly exciting, until I realised he is in most people's ancestry! Ah well, can't win 'em all!
I am going to turn all those stories into two books: one from my mother backwards and one from my father backwards. A great deal of work, paper and frustration. However, in recent years it has become easier to find records. Census records for the USA have placed several of my distant family firmly within my grasp, Ellis Island records do the same (although I still have to find the main man, Job is proving to be an elusive person). And the further you go back, the more difficult it will be of course. Unless you strike it lucky and hit another gold vein that is!
So, if I am not that present in times to come: my new/old hobby is keeping me busy!!