google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html The Moment You Knew | The Armchair Genealogist

The Moment You Knew

For me it came as a revelation, after a series of tragic events.
First, my husband’s father passed away suddenly as a result of a heart attack. There were no signs. My husband and I were busy living our lives, both working heavy hours, raising two children. Our girls were busy as well, school and dance. However, on October 31st, 2004, my father-in-law sat up in bed, collapsed to the floor. We were shaken to our core.

We pushed through the next year. We returned to our busy life styles, a little stunned and bewildered.

Eighteen months later, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with lung cancer. The last year had been difficult for her, without her husband of 50 years. She gave up, there was no fight and she passed away 6 weeks later.

That was the moment I knew. That was moment I knew I needed to make time for the more important things in life. I didn’t know then it would be my family history. I knew my family needed to become more of a priority. I had the luxury of becoming a stay-at-home Mom.

I left my 60 hour a week job as a restaurant manager and went home to be a full-time mother and wife. It was during my time at home I started seeking those stories of my ancestors. The deaths of my in-laws had pushed me to start asking those questions, interviewing the living and committing to writing a family history book. The frailty of the last year and half had brought me to the realization there was so much I wanted to know about my own history, my own ancestors, I wanted to write those stories.

So much was lost when my husband’s parents died. I had never expected to lose them so quickly. I thought I had time. It changed me forever. So many questions were never asked and never answered. I didn’t want that to be the case with my own family.

That is how I became hooked on genealogy. That is why the stories of my ancestors are so very important to me and that is why I started this blog and decided to share my enthusiasm and knowledge. Now I am on a journey I never could have predicted. Funny how life happens that way. 

As I approach the 7th anniversary of my father-in-law’s passing, I can look back now and see how and why I got here. Have you looked back at your own travels, how did you come to this place in your genealogy journey?

When did you know?

I think many of us have such a passion for this work that we see it as something we have to do. We would be lost without it.  When did you know that researching your family history was going to be something you needed to do? Was there a single experience that motivated your research, was it a culmination of events, or perhaps you always knew.

What is your story – what is the moment you knew?


Helen Spencer said...

...when my mum died suddenly and left me clutching the precious memories I had of my childhood with her, but no narrative of the stories of her own younger life which she had taken with her. I had a sudden realisation that I would one day be gone, and that my kids would have nothing to show for my life or the memories we've made together. I founded a website, such was my passion, to enable families to capture their contemporary family memories, stories and events on a chronological timeline. is free to use and I hope will help people get it all down 'on paper' as a legacy for future generations. Helen

The Scrappy Genealogist said...

Your story is immensely powerful. The deaths of my maternal grandfather, Bubba, and my paternal grandmother were what pushed me over the edge. There are just so many things that I wish I could ask them now...

Dee said...

I have been interested in genealogy since my teens. However, it was the death of my great grandmother coming only six months after the birth of my daughter that spurred me into action. I realized that if I didn't start working on my family history, I ran the risk of losing more family members that could tell me about our heritage.

It turns out I was right. Since I started, I've lost another great grandmother, both grandfathers, a couple great aunts and a number of cousins of varying degrees. Thankfully I had the opportunity to speak to some of them before they passed.

A year ago, I started a blog to share my research. Recently I've met several cousins from my maternal line on Facebook. Thanks to them, I now have tons of family pictures that I had no idea even existed. One of the cousins also set up a group so we can share pictures and stories with other family members, as well as collaborate on research since several of us are working on the family tree.

Andrea Kelleher said...

Having kids of my own was the push that started my journey to actually begin researching my ancestors. That and a curiosity that I had since childhood regarding a picture that hung in my grandmother's home of her own mother. That image resonated with me and I had to find out her story.

Lynn Palermo said...

Thank you ladies for sharing your stories, @Andrea, I love that a picture called you and you answered. Pictures can be very haunting.

@Helen @Dee @ScrappyGenealogist, I am not surprised we all share the death of a relative as our calling card. By sharing our stories my hope is that others will not wait!

Lisa Swanson Ellam said...


I loved this posting so much that I wrote a post on my blog about my story. Thank you!

Dawn said...

Wonderful story! I, too, started after the death of a relative. I wrote a little about it at my blog:

Lynn Palermo said...

Lisa and Dawn so glad to hear you were inspired to tell your own story, I heading to your blogs right now to read them.

Deb Ruth said...


Thank you for this wonderful story! There were several life changes that put me on the path as "family historian".

You have given me the inspiration to creat a post detailing my story.

Thanks again!

cassmob said...

Lynn, thanks for a emotionally engaging story. Like Deb, for me there were a few life changes that precipitated starting my story including wanting to know more about my German name and ancestry. I realised earlier this week, that I'm just celebrating my 25th anniversary of family history so I wrote a post about it this week. There have been so many surprises along the way and I've gained so much from the journey. Pauleen

Lynn Palermo said...

Thanks Pauleen, Wow, 25 years! I will be sure to stop by your blog and read your story.

Linda Gartz said...

Hi Lynn,
A cautionary tale and moving story of re-prioritizing life.
After my mom died in 1994, (my dad had a desvastating stroke in 1985, never spoke another word, and died in 1989), my brothers and I were left the task of cleaning out their home of almost 30 years. We had no idea that in the attic we'd find hundreds of letters between my parents, hundreds of letters from WWII, hundreds of letters from Romania, scores of diaries by both my parents (later discovered from my grandparents), documents, photos, etc -- enough to fill 25 Bankers' boxes. I had two little boys (4 & 6) so after we spent a week sorting, all went into storage. Then in 2000 my brothers came in and we went methodically through each box, creating a spreadsheet of what we had and put the 25 boxes in my garage. Two years later, in 2002, I decided I needed to start reading those letters. What a history they told! Then in 2009 I found someone to decipher the ancient German writing and discovered I had love letters between my grandparents. Right now I'm posting my mom's diary entries of falling in love with my dad. Last year, on the 100th anniversary of the oldest missive, I started the blog to share this amazing trove and hope to touch a cord with others and hopefully encourage them to get stories that they may not have. My parents always spoke of family history and labelled everything so we'd know as much as possible. I'd encourage everyone to label photos and documents. It saved us. This last week my brother and I used Reunion for the Mac to make a family tree -- another story. We have the documents and the letters, but I had no idea my dad's personal stories would be taken from my when he was just 70.

So many pressures impinge on our lives, it's often hard to fit in the family research, but I'd encourage all to use family get-togethers to start recording info now. Not everyone has a family that saved every little thing, like mine did, with which I can recreate so much. So get the stories now. Death (and even a stroke) is so final--and that's it.

Lynn Palermo said...

Linda, you and I have had this discussion before and I am always in awe of how much your parents saved and how lucky you are, you're right, most are not that lucky and need to ask those questions now.

I know Linda you are sharing your familie's story, but I am astonished at how much and what they saved. I think that in itself says something about them and who they were, clearly very special and very forward thinking. Most of us will spend our lifetime to just find a 10th of what you have been handed. I am astonished by the fact that they had the foresight to save it all for you. The gathering and storing of this information alone is in itself a story, aside from the story that lays inside those boxes.

Patricia Stanard said...

Lynn, I loved your story so much, that I wrote my own on my blog,

Thank you for posting and inspiring us to remember why we started!

Nancy said...

I wrote this post in February, on the anniversary of the date I knew:

Great topic, Lynn.

Linda Gartz said...

You obviously touched a chord with a lot of people who wanted to respond to your compelling story! Thanks so much.

Mel said...

My moment of truth was my first time in front of a microfilm reader:

lynnr said...

Loss and grief were my motivators. After losing my younger sister early this year, I found myself in a deep well of grief. She and I had planned to interview the our two elderly aunts (the last two of eleven siblings)and put it off too often. Researching our family history was a way to stay connected to her and honor her but somewhere along the over the last few months I caught the "bug", big time. It's now a passion that I couldn't imagine walking away from.

Lynn Palermo said...

Hi lynnr, thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry for your loss, however, it is wonderful you have genealogy as a connection to your sister. It's very interesting how are paths are revealed to us.