My Love of Genealogy: An Origin Story

I’m at it again this year … 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, thanks to Amy Johnson Crow. The theme for week one is “Start”. Oh, so many ways to interpret that. But we all start somewhere …

The Start of it All  

I was 11 years old when I fell in love with history – specifically the American Civil War era – in large part due to historical fiction author John Jakes and his Orry Maine.

It wasn’t so much the history we’re taught in school … dates, places, and names of important (at least important to someone) people. Rather, the way people lived throughout history; their daily lives, the food they ate, the homes they built. We call this social history today. I don’t think it really had a name then.

At age 15, I was introduced to genealogy. Suddenly, I had a way to make history truly meaningful. That was the year my high school French teacher assigned a family tree project. We were to research our heritage, in part, to see if any of us had French ancestors. It was her way of making a connection between us students and a subject far away from anything significant to our teenage lives.

I announced my new project at dinner that evening and the look on my dad’s face was priceless. He started telling stories about people I hadn’t heard of up to that point. Oh … the stories he told … of fur trappers and Sioux uprisings … and our French heritage.

Yep … French heritage! I was one of the few in my French class who could trace their ancestry beyond the first line of greats, certainly to French ancestors. I’m blessed now, but then … I was just dumbfounded that we had all this family history and a lot of it recorded in family bibles.

The Man Who Started it All

His name is Joseph LeMaitre. He is my 3rd great-grandfather. Joseph – Joe – was born on January 28, 1831, in France – Paris or Sainte-Menehould. I have records that say each. Something to sort out eventually. He died at age 39 in 1870. I’m forever searching for “why” or “how”.

Joseph Lemaitre, 1831-1870

Source: Find A Grave

Joe married Veronica Voirol on December 24, 1852, and they had 7 children who lived to adulthood. I descend from their daughter, Adeline Isabell LeMaitre.

I’ve written about Joe before – and will likely write more about him this year. He’s one of my favorite ancestors. I think because he is, to my knowledge, the progenitor of the Lemaitre line. He also had a fascinating life, one that I’ve greatly enjoyed reading and learning about.

He opened my eyes to genealogy … to what it means to be part of something bigger and greater than myself. He introduced me to a fragment of American history of which I had little knowledge – the Great Sioux Uprising of 1862.

Little did I know it then, but Joe Lemaitre started me out on a journey of a lifetime … many lifetimes, really. And for that, I thank him.

52 Ancestors

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