How Christopher Became the Family's Youngest Genealogist

As far as I know, Christopher, my first cousin twice removed, is my family’s youngest genealogist.  He started researching his ancestry when he was about 9 years old, and now that he’s in high school he’s become quite an accomplished genealogist.  He wrote an article for this blog explaining how he got involved in researching his family history.  Here is his story:

I began researching my family almost eight years ago now. The earliest notebook I have is dated October 1998- that’s the month that one night at dinner I showed my grandparents a list I had been making of all of the relatives in my family that I knew of. It was at that time that my step-grandfather brought out his pedigree that traced his family history back into the 1700s, and that’s how it all began.

At that time I began picking the brains of all of my relatives, I was only about nine years old. When I began doing my research I began on my mother’s side because the information was more readily accessible to me than my fathers side. My mothers mother luckily had already collected some information from relatives in the early 1990s before my great-grandmother and her brother Paul Charron had died. She also had a list of rough birthdates and death dates from her uncle Joe Danko for members on her fathers side. The information that my grandmother had was the basic facts that I used to start my research on my mothers side of the family.

One night in 1999 my mother received a phone call from her cousin Stephen Danko, who was working out a family tree for his father. I wonder if he was surprised when she had told him that her ten year old son could give him more information about her own family than she could. Every now and than Steve and I chat to keep each other up-to-date on our family. Steve even helped me in researching information on sides of my family that he is not a relative of. He has been very helpful and my family tree wouldn’t be nearly as plentiful as it is without his most appreciated help and research.

I have learned a lot about Genealogy just by searching for family members online, at courthouses, churches, and cemeteries and by interviewing family members. About five years ago I found a distant cousin and fellow genealogist Kelly Townsend through Ancestry.com. She had traced my mother’s maternal grandmother’s family back into the late 1500s in France. We began chatting, and after about a year of correspondences we finally met at a cemetery where our relatives were buried. About a year afterwards my grandparents, grandaunt, and I attended the Patenaude Family Reunion in Montreal, Canada. Kelly is just one of a few of my distant cousins that I have found.

While looking into standard ways of documenting sources, I realized that Family Tree Maker is a savior at documenting sources. Without that software my information would probably never be as organized as it is. Sometimes I think to myself, if I have gotten this far and I’m only seventeen now, imagine how much more I will know and understand about my family years from now. Genealogy has even gotten me interested in learning about genetics! Researching the history of my family has also taught me to appreciate my own family more, and I will continue to study my family history because after all it is a project that can never be complete.

Christopher and I get together now and then to compare notes and do some collaborative research in New York or Massachusetts.  Since I live in California and Christopher lives in Florida, we usually meet at the ancestral family homestead in Albany, New York.  Both Christopher and I grew up in the same house in Albany, although the times each of us lived there were separated by 29 years.

Christopher probably knows when his great grandfather bought the house the Albany (I think it was in the 1940s).  The house is still in the family; it’s now owned by Christopher’s older brother William.

At age 17, Christopher has 8 years of genealogy research experience under his belt, and his family history research has led to a new interest in genetics.  Perhaps Zoe Williams should interview Christopher for her column someday.

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7 Responses to How Christopher Became the Family's Youngest Genealogist

  1. Chris Dunham says:

    Wow, your cousin is lucky to have had such an early introduction to genealogy. What a great achievement to put on his college applications!

    By the way, his precocity probably has something to do with his first name. My mother always told me that she named me Christopher because she knew I’d be smart enough to spell it at an early age.

  2. I agree that my cousin is lucky to have started so young. I was interested in genealogy when I was in elementary school, but I didn’t pursue this interest until I was much, much older.

    I’ll have to make sure Christopher takes a look at your blog. I think he’d enjoy it!

  3. Lee says:

    Your young cousin is a wonder to behold.

    ~ Lee

  4. Shhhhh… We don’t want all this praise going to his head. He reads this blog, you know!

  5. Cheryl Palmer says:

    Kudos to Christopher! Great article, and I know he is on to bigger and better things. I can only imagine if I had started at the age he did………and Steve, I know you have taught and helped him immensely!

  6. I’ll see Christopher at Christmas. I’m still looking for the perfect genealogy-related Christmas gift for him!

  7. Professor Dru says:

    It is great to hear that such a young many is passionate about genealogy. Kudos to Christopher!

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