Your Stories: Connecting and Collaborating with Family
It’s Family History Month! Throughout the month of October, we’ll be sharing stories from the Geni community in celebration of genealogy and family history. Read below of one Geni user’s journey into genealogy and her excitement for the endless possibilities of connecting and collaborating in the World Family Tree.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Tamar Weinberg likes to call herself a professional hustler. A work-at-home mom with 4 kids under the age of 7, Tamar has her hands full juggling parenting duties while working full time in online media.
Tamar’s grandmother as a little girl standing next to her parents and brother. “Her name was Shirley and she was the same age as Shirley Temple, a fact we loved growing up.”
“I’ve always been interested in my family’s history. As a teenager, I recall reaching out to my cousin, the family genealogist, with an interest in pursing my past but not really knowing where to start. (Fortunately, he was picking up the pieces!) I even thought of creating my own social network of sorts for my own family in the 90s, but that same cousin stole the domain name I wanted.”
As social networks and online genealogy groups gained popularity, Tamar would hear stories from a friend who was a part of a Jewish Facebook group.
“For a while, I kept my distance, thinking what could I possibly find there? Maybe nothing. But I decided one day on a whim to enter the group.
I searched for my family’s names, some of which are pretty uncommon (as in – we’re all related). As soon as I did, a result came up, and it turned out the guy who posted it was my 8th cousin! The concept of 8th cousin when we barely know who our 2nd cousins are (at least in my family) was jaw-dropping. The fact that I could find other family members through social media, and putting a real face to the name, hooked me, especially as we’re both in this genealogical journey together.”
Once hooked, Tamar couldn’t get enough. Although she had joined Geni back in 2007, she hadn’t actively used it until making the connection with her 8th cousin this year.
“Since then, I’ve connected with family on other branches of my tree, and it’s been fascinating. It’s actually really nice to go on the journey with someone who is similarly interested in their past and can share info on that. Many people don’t care much of their history, but for me, I would like to say that I do.”
The collaborative nature of the family tree and the possibilities of making new connections really drew Tamar to Geni.
“My favorite part of Geni is the tree – the fact that everyone together is building this global family tree is exciting to me. I just hope they realize that the best part of Geni is predicated on the focus on ancestry, not just on who your spouse and children are. That’s the beauty of the site to me, giving me a chance to connect with people who I may not have even known about before.
Thinking about how our families evolved, there’s so much to learn. We have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents, 16 great great grandparents, 32 great great great grandparents, 64 great great great great grandparents, 128 great^5 grandparents, and well, that totally boggles my mind. I wish I could meet everyone. Maybe in time as I put my story together.”
Although she is still struggling to reach beyond her 4th cousins in the tree, Tamar has made some other fun discoveries since connecting to the World Family Tree.
“Truthfully, the idea of Albert Einstein being my husband’s uncle’s wife’s son’s wife’s second cousin once removed’s husband’s brother’s wife’s first cousin once removed’s ex-partner is pretty cool, I must admit, and I love that kind of discovery. I am addicted to finding more.”
Tamar’s pursuit of her family history has brought her into contact with other relatives, which has lead to even more connections to pursue.
Tamar’s great grandparents and her grandfather as a boy. He is in his 90′s now.
“There’s a scholar in my family (who we believe is my 3rd cousin 3x removed) who has been doing our family’s own genealogy for more than 50 years. I visited his library where he shared hundreds upon hundreds of photos and documents. I’ve used that to create my own family history, but we’re still unsure about certain gaps. Now I’m randomly contacting people to see if they can fill them. The pursuit can be really interesting with people coming out of the woodwork, so to speak, to make those connections.
This cousin of mine told me about another cousin who sent me to even more family. He was my 2nd cousin twice removed, so I discovered, but little did I know one of his closer cousins was my grandfather’s first cousin (because all of my ancestors married each other), a woman I never knew about until just a few weeks ago. It was amazing to ‘reconnect.’”
Those aren’t the only connections she’s made. Like many genealogists, Tamar has taken a DNA test in her pursuit of her family history. And DNA is something she really suggests others to pursue too.
“I encourage it – it helps really solidify some of the connections you don’t know about (and does quite the opposite for connections you think you know about but were wrong about). But it’s still super hard to connect the dots even on third cousins in some places, which is discouraging – and motivates me more to dig and find the missing pieces. But it is also amazing to be contacted by people who don’t know who their birth parents are. I have been contacted by several people who have been trying to ascertain their roots, and while we’re close to figuring things out with one family member, we actually found another person’s birth father (sperm donor). It’s been super cool to realize how diverse my family is.”
As her tree continues to grow, Tamar has also found a new appreciation for the individuals who make up her ancestry.
The family of Tamar’s 3rd great grandfather (b. 1840) and grandmother on her paternal grandmother’s side. Not pictured is Tamar’s 2nd great grandmother, who is believed to have been married by then. The little boy is unaccounted for – he is believed to not have made it into adulthood.
“As you build out your own journey, you get a sense of empathy as you go through by adding family members who have had children who all didn’t survive past two, or who died in childhood, or who died in childbirth. We’re so lucky to be alive when we’re alive. I just wish at times that I could go back in time and find out more about my story.”
Now with some experience under her belt, Tamar has some words of advice for others who are just starting on their own journey into their genealogy.
“Like dieting, genealogy is better done with family. It’s better if they’re not close family since the exploration takes you on different paths. I recommend DNA and porting the data to GEDmatch to learn more about where you come from. And I recommend collaboration and family groups on Geni. The whole idea of a global family tree means we all need to work together to make that happen.”
Special thanks to Tamar for sharing her story with us! Do you have a story to share? Email us at email@example.com.
All photos courtesy of Tamar Weinberg