Published May 15, 2017

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Occasionally when people find out that I’m a hard-core genealogist, they ask something along the lines of “So what’s more fun about it – the finding? or the searching?”

(Well, at least this used to be a very popular question – now the response I get is often an observation about them having taken a DNA test and “what do you think about those ethnicity estimates, anyway?”)

I’ve had some pretty exciting times with both “finding” and “searching.”

As far as “searching,” there’s that concept of “things found on the way to something else.”

Sometimes these have been related directly to my family tree, such as when searching for one ancestor’s newspaper obituary (Elizabeth Spayd Ruth) led to the discovery of when a completely different ancestor (Wellington B. Machmer) was reported as having changed residences.

Other times, these excursions in serendipity have led to uncovering something more random – such as the first time I found the baptism of an illegitimate child written upside down in a German church book.

Or when working through the records of a different church led me to realize that they were organized in an idiosyncratic fashion – that all the baptisms of children with fathers having first names starting with A were grouped together chronologically (and then fathers having first names starting with B, etc.) for about 30 years. Took a while flipping the microfilm back and forth to figure that one out!

It’s a pretty rare situation, indeed, that the “searching” doesn’t result in some sort of “find” – even if it isn’t always what began the search.

I had a firm lead from a different source that the Rathmacher family would be found in the Rhineland town of Sprendlingen.

But the bonuses when I started examining the Sprendlingen records were that two other of my ancestry families – the Machmers (yes, ancestors of the Wellington Machmer mentioned above!) and the Strunks – were also found in this town. Call it a “three-fer.”

As wonderful as the searching and finding are, however, I’d have to say that the most fun in genealogy is the people.

There’s the joy of a beginner sharing his or her first big find.

Or the sheer relief of a long-seemingly-impregnable “brick wall” tumbling down after years of effort.

Whether I hear about these stories at conferences or Facebook or genealogy society events, they always bring a smile to my face.

It’s the sharing of these type of finds by genealogists that gives the craft its spirit and life.