When I first started my research on my paternal side, I was looking for names and dates of great grandparents, and their surrounding family. I was literally shocked to realize how far I was able to trace back my lineage, and even more surprised as to the locations in which my family had arrived from. I never thought in a million years, that I would discover and find so many answers to the questions about my paternal side. From the smallest question as to Where did I get these ears from? There were much more significant answers that I received, such as, Why did my paternal side of the male family drink so much? I even received an answer to a surprising question, as to why am I slowly losing some of my hearing now? Well, come to find out, my paternal side had known Hearing defects in our generations past. A few family members even opened up world renowned Schools for the Hearing Impaired.
Researching my family members has created a sense of loyalty, and established in some sense a relationship or connection with them. There have been surprises, interesting facts, and disappointments along the way. I have discovered that sometimes you create a person in the image that you expect them to be, and often times, with further research back, you discover facts about them that can be somewhat disappointing. For example, while doing research I discovered that my great, great, great grandparents were married a very long time, and had many children together. I discovered that although they were together, the ggg grandfather also had a whole separate family in the same town! The perception that I had created in my mind, was not based on the genealogical facts that I discovered.
To take my research to another level, I like to analyze the socio-economics of the area that they lived in. What was the time frame in regards to world historical events? Was there something sufficient going on that would effect their standards of living? The Depression era, disease epidemics, local and federal politics? All surrounding facts that could help create the culture of that particular time.
One last thing, take the time to study and analyze the vital records of your ancestor. You will be able to determine a lot about the person they were by studying birth, marriage, and especially death certificates. Census records hold so many unknown facts about the family as a whole: location of where they lived, their profession, education, social status, people they associated with and so much more!
I encourage you to get to know your family members better, research with open eyes, an open heart, and you will be surprised at all the interesting facts that you discover.