I’m feeling reflective today, and would like to share some family thoughts with you. I hope they trigger a thought or feeling about your own family.
I’ve spent these last few days in Florida, attending the Bar Mitzvah of my nephew, Eli.
During that time, I had the chance to talk to Lee, my sister-in-law’s mom, about Eli’s maternal heritage. As I sat listening to tales of life in Manhattan around the turn of the last century, I was reminded why I love family stories—and why I collect them like some people collect stamps or coins.
I’ve come to believe that family stories are the bricks we use to build our “genealogy house”—and whether happy or sad, each story adds something to the house, and becomes part of who we are. If you know your family survived Russian pogroms, Indian raids, or a yellow fever epidemic, it gives you a bedrock upon which to build your own life.
I know, for myself, that I often think back on stories my grandmothers told, and how it feels to know that those stories have contributed to who I am. Does anyone else feel this way? Write and tell me what you think.
On a genealogical note, when I visited the Florida state capitol, displayed inside are the seals of every country or entity to which Florida once belonged: France, Spain, the United States, the Confederacy and England. I stood there thinking to myself—I’m glad I don’t have to unravel any Florida ancestors!
For those of you who do, you can access Florida federal censuses from 1830 onward; Colonial census records begin in 1783, and are at the Florida State Archives. The state archives also has a searchable online collection of digitized Spanish land grants. Florida eventually became a public-land state, with the first general land office opened in Tallahassee in 1825. Resulting land records are searchable through the Bureau of Land Management General Land Office records site
Other Florida genealogy resources include: