By Lisa Batten Kunkleman
My ancestors keep me up at night. Not in a haunting, spooky, hover-above-the-bed way but in an addictive, I can’t drag myself away from Ancestry.com kind-of-way. My obsession with family history intensifies with each passing year. I’m afraid other people will take precious knowledge to their graves like my grandparents did, leaving more unanswerable questions. The problem is, it’s hard to know what the questions are until there’s a mystery to solve and then it is too late because oftentimes, there is no one left who can help provide answers. Oh how I wish I had my dad here to fill in some blanks for me in the family tree and make this research much easier. I almost waited too late to become curious about family history, but thank goodness Daddy and I talked frequently about historical topics while spending time together working jigsaw puzzles or taking walks.
Nowadays, I think I’m in control of this addiction, but I’m not. I plan to blog or write for class but when I sit at the computer, those old relatives get into my head. “Check your messages,” they say. “You might have a new DNA cousin.” Or “You might have a hint about your Viking relatives, that gory branch of the tree that so intrigues your sons.”
Sometimes I think I’ll unwind before going to bed so I sit at my desk for a minute. Yeah right. I check my e-mail one last time and make the mistake of clicking on the one from Ancestry.com that says, “Possible Record Matches in Batten, Kunkleman Family Tree.” That minute turns into several hours and next thing I know it’s two in the morning and I’m so wired up from all the juicy news stories and black sheep, there’s no way I can stop.
I print the best stories, and punch holes in the pages I’ll put in one of my many binders. I worry about the grind of the printer and the click of the notebook disturbing my snoring husband on the other side of my office door but I can’t pull myself away from the latest clue leading to answers about mysterious missing links. Like a chocoholic who can’t stop till the family size bag of M&Ms is flat and empty, I can’t stop checking for new DNA matches or adding one new name to one of my five family trees. Every time I add something new, a little green leaf pops up telling me I have two, four, or even ten hints to check from that tiny morsel of information. I feel my pulse race and my eyes widen, hoping that a missing piece to my massive tree will finally turn up. Like an impossible five thousand piece puzzle with no picture to guide me, I lust to connect the pieces. It’s like a quest. Daddy, a former jigsaw enthusiast, now among our ancestors, would understand. I can see him now, stooped over the round table on the sun porch working a puzzle saying, “Just one more piece. Then I’ll stop. Just one more piece.”
Now it’s me, saying to myself, “Just one more person. Then I’ll stop. Just one more person.”