Why family history matters to me

(Originally posted on January 6th, 2014)

Rains family, William H Rains is the first child on the left

Family history has always held an interest for me in varying degrees as long as I can remember.  The beginning of that interest sits squarely on my hope as a child to have a real related connection to Ireland.  I can't tell you what it was about the Irish that spoke to me as 7-8 year old boy.  My mother always said we were "some" Irish?  I can promise it wasn't Lucky Charms, never a fan.  It  is something deep, something that has escaped me in description.  The one surety I know,  it moves me like nothing else.

During the "Walkman", "TMNT" days of the early '90s, even as a small child, I wanted proof of that relation.  I would argue with other kids during recesses in March that I was more Irish than them.  Precarious as that may have been, I believed it with every fiber.  I began genealogical research on my family names in 2006.  Nearly eight years later I have learned a great deal more than I could have ever imagined.  The Irish connection I had wanted so dearly to be confirmed was found in John J. Ryan, b. 1873, Ireland.  To my own surprise there has been a surplus of German ancestors, Swiss, English and even a couple from Wales.  While this hasn't lessened my connection to Erin, it certainly made me rethink why I have continued to research after finding the connection I wanted.

In a lot of ways, my reasons for continued research are completely different, unforeseen from the onset.  The more ancestors I add to the tree, the more I want to know about those not so long gone.  My maternal grandfather, William Harold Rains, left this world the 4th of August, 1989.  Growing up, you hear many stories about "Big Bill", often finished with, "I wish he was still around, he would have loved you guys".  Three and a half years old at the time I have the foggiest of one memory with my grandfather.  He and I were on the side of his home, practicing our golf swings.  Bill, with his proper golf clubs, me with my blue plastic little tikes golf clubs.  As soon as I can remember the memory starting, it ends with Bill's friend and daughter's father-in-law, Ralph Montenaro pulling up to house.  I'm assuming they were about to go to a golf course, but very little of it remains clear to me.  

I find myself thinking most often of him, and my other grandparents during my research.  I was only ever close with one of my four grandparents, and trying to find their stories and those of their ancestors pushes me forward.  It has brought me to a place where I now consider myself a collector, a protector, or most properly, a care taker of the family history that is connected to so many people, be it Nelson, Mender, Rains or Eberts.