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My earliest childhood memories are vivid recollections of countless remarks of us being Irish. Long before I understood what that meant, it became ingrained in me as part of who I was. When old enough to start asking questions, I discovered my Grandmother’s maiden name was Kelly, which for me just confirmed our “Irishness.” Unfortunately, my questions stopped there.

Fast forward to the late 1990s when I began researching my family tree, regrettably after everyone had passed away. Based on my mother’s routine comments, I expected to find not too distant ancestors who were “off the boat” from Ireland. Twenty years ago, long before DNA testing and the internet we know today were available, research meant a trip to the archives or sending away for vital records via snail-mail. Two key findings would come to light as my research progressed; both were very surprising. First, my Irish ancestors came over around the time of the great famine, about 1850, and second that I had strong German roots. After growing up Irish, I was taken aback by now being German and wondered why no one in my family had ever mentioned it. After letting this new identity sink in, I embraced it by attempting to make Sauerbraten (which was not at all successful but driven by my Irish tenacity, I kept trying until I got it right : )

What I still hold near and dear to my heart is the pride and strong Irish identity I’ve inherited. Regardless of how long ago my Irish immigrant ancestors came over, most over a hundred years before I was born, I’ve always felt a deep connection to Ireland. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Ireland twice, once with my husband and two children to the west coast and a second trip to Dublin with a visit to the National Archives of Ireland. I had more determination than research experience back then and I still laugh when I think of the excitement of being in the Archives and asking them to help me find ancestors named Kelly. I certainly had a much better chance of success in making Sauerbraten then I did narrowing down my Kelly Clan with so little information to go on. Lessons learned!

Times have changed, and now DNA can bring so much more information to light as we search for our ancestors. On Ancestry.com, their Community History links my family to the southern area of Munster, Ireland, described as the perfect hiding place for rebels and outlaws. I love that and I wear it like a badge of honor.

Now blessed with four beautiful grandchildren, I have photos of each of them on their first St. Patrick’s day that I look at every day and now as I write. It’s never too early to make sure they all know that they are Irish (and of course German) and Grandma reminds them all the time.

Taking pride in all the ethnic puzzle pieces that make us who we are, those we know of and those yet to be discovered. ~Happy St. Patrick’s Day to All ~

While working on building my family tree in earlier years, I was excited to find a direct ancestor who served in the American Revolution. An obvious next step was to join the Daughter of the American Revolution, starting with finding a local chapter and attending a meeting as a guest and prospective member. What I learned was that my ancestor was not a recorded patriot, which I came to find out is an exciting event. What this also meant is that I needed to prove my lineal descent over six generations with documented proof to confirm the connection for each generation. With this exciting and daunting task before me, I was determined to link the almost two hundred years of ancestry between myself and my patriot.

My journey would span three states, countless hours of research in repositories, online databases, and several road trips to his home state of Maryland, where most of the family lived. Since genealogical research often leads to at least one cemetery visit, in 2008, I traveled to Stone Chapel Cemetery in Carroll County, Maryland. This visit would not only uncover a missing link that opened up a new branch of family history, but would also involve what I've always considered a jovial poke from my long-lost ancestors.

After roaming this cemetery for some time, finding my 3x Great-Grandmother, and delighting in the joy of my discovery, I headed back to my car. As I searched for my car keys, they were nowhere to be found in my purse. As a mild panic set in, I couldn't help but think that my ancestors were looking down laughing as they played this joke on me. After unsuccessfully retracing my steps in a systematic grid search, calling my husband (not that there was anything he could do from New Jersey), I considered calling the police as the sun began to set. Luckily a gentleman who was walking by stopped, possibly seeing my dread. After explaining my situation, he was kind enough to help me search, and after what seemed like an eternity, I found my keys not far from my newly found ancestor's grave. Beyond relieved, I thanked the wonderful man who stopped to help me then bid my ancestors farewell. As I drove away, I was now able to laugh about this wildly exciting adventure

All the years of diligent research and efforts became well worth it when my application was accepted. The journey was a valuable learning experience and also paved the way for other family members to join. I am especially proud to now have my daughter join me as a member, and I look to the future when my two granddaughters continue our new legacy of being recognized as Daughters of the American Revolution.

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Updated: Jan 2

As the new year kicks off, so do our plans for upcoming genealogy journeys. Being able to look back at the end of 2020 with a feeling of accomplishment begins with planning now for future success. Step one is to start with realistic goals that will get you excited about completing them without turning your life upside down.

After years of contemplation, 2018 was the year I was ready to start taking the next step toward professional genealogy. I took a good look at where I wanted to be over the next few years, did my homework, developed a business plan, and created a website. What I learned was that even with the best planning and preparation, life happens, and sometimes you need to hit the pause button when you get blown off course by unplanned events. I also learned that taking a break is not a failure, and jumping back in at the right time in 2019 was like rekindling an old flame.

Vision boards are a great way to visualize and plan your next steps. If you are hoping to find a new branch of the family tree, break through a stubborn brick wall, or expand on personal knowledge and expertise, they can provide clear direction and motivation by creating a picture of what you want to accomplish. Goals for genealogy are endless and should be personal, based on what you’d like to do or who you’d like to find, as well as purposeful to determine how to make those goals happen. A genealogy vision board with goals for 2020 creates a visual strategy with a personal focus on you.

My 2020 vision board includes completion of ProGen Study Group #44, BCG certification, and the NYG&B New York State Family History Conference (NYSFHC) in Albany this fall. I am super excited about the busy year to come, and I'll be using my vision board as a screen saver to keep me on track.

So, cheers to the new year and making it all happen in 2020 with goals and plans that lead us down the road to success and personal accomplishments. Happy New Year!