"Where did you come from. Where did you go?"
My genealogy journey
The question above is a line from the American folk song "Cotton-Eyed Joe" about a mysterious stranger who comes to town and lures all the women away, including the singer's beloved. "Where did you come from, where did you go?" the jilted man asks. While this song isn't about genealogy, those lyrics often run through my mind as I work to unravel the mysteries of my heritage. Those questions are the main questions of existence.
Who am I?
Why are we here?
Where did we come from?
How do we see things and communicate to others?
Not long ago I received an email with a link to an article entitled "When Passion Turns to Obsession." My mind immediately went to the amount of time, energy and money I have been spending on my family genealogy. Wondering whether I had crossed some kind of invisible line, I followed the link only to read an article about obsessive romantic relationships. I had to laugh. Like other genealogists, I am well aware of the depth of my obsession.
I started working on my family tree in 2008, interviewing my parents and putting together a basic tree on Geni.com. Then I forgot about it for awhile as I pursued other things. In 2011 my parents moved to assisted living and I became acutely aware that any information they may have might quickly disappear if I didn't gather it now, so I started to work on it afresh. I began with a subscription on Ancestry.com and also did a full gamut of DNA testing on both of my parents. When they came to visit me in 2012, I sat them both down on my couch and gathered 8 hours of video of them talking about their families, their own memories, and what they knew of their ancestors. Some of this later went into a documentary I completed in 2014 about my father's photography work, but that's another story (you can learn more about that on the About page.)
I was making good progress on getting clear records of my family in the United States but I just couldn't break through to the "old country" where their parents and grandparents emigrated from. Finally in early 2018, on JewishGen.org, I connected with a hitherto unknown cousin researching my Ilkovics family line and the flood gate opened. She connected me with a branch of Ilkovics living in California and I began connecting dot after dot after dot. It led me to hire a researcher in current day Slovakia who traipsed all over the country on my behalf, finding birth, wedding and death records in numerous small towns. A picture of this family began to emerge, along with several new cousins that I didn't know I had.
During this time, self-published books, photos and stories were arriving from my newly connected family. Conversations were being had over Skype. A trip to the "old country" was in the planning. I was striving to envision a way of sharing the quickly growing body of research with my ever-expanding family. At first I thought about creating a documentary, since this is what I do in my main vocation. But the financial and time resources necessary to make a documentary are enormous and I wanted something quicker than a film would take. Then I considered creating a coffee-table style book. But I knew that the minute it was published, it would be outdated as new research progressed quickly once a brick wall came down. So the idea of this website, a dynamic resource that could serve as a knowledge base for future generations, seemed the inevitable outcome. And here we are.
What you will find here are links to the four main limbs of my family tree. Each page will share trees, photographs ( click on each photo to open a window with a larger image), anecdotal stories, and other information about the relatives I learn about. My blog will share events as I travel and experience the evolution of my discoveries. I hope you will enjoy learning about my family.