Maintaining an interest in genealogical research since 10th grade Biology class with Miss Charlotte Bockes, I have found this field to be intriguing, mysterious, and fun. A Biology unit in genetics inspired my interest, beginning with basic collection of information about my extended family. The family history knowledge I had at the beginning regarding my parents and grandparents expanded backwards sequentially over the years to each generation through the early 20th century, late 19th century, the American Civil War, early 19th century and late 18th century. This process took some 20 to 30 years to reach the information about my ancestors who lived during the American Revolution.
Connecting into existing genealogies, there are some lines of descent that are traced back to the North American colonial periods and to European families. About 99% of my ancestry is central and northern Europe, with a good 85% or more from England. Other nationalities in my ancestry include Scottish, Irish, Welch, Danish and other Scandinavian nationalities, Dutch-German, and French. There is little evidence of descent from Native Americans, Eastern Europe, or Southern Europe; virtually no evidence of descent from any areas outside Europe.
Due to the sparse amount of information available during the times prior to the establishment of the American Republic, many written genealogies should be taken with a grain of salt - unless the proof is conclusive.
Along the path of my genealogical training and research work, I have completed courses and seminars about family history research and genealogy. For instance, in 1976, I completed a 3-credit American Family History course at SUNY Potsdam with Dr. Judith Ranlett. Dr. Ranlett inspired her history students to go beyond just the plain old boring data of birth, marriage, death, but also to pursue information about family customs and culture, including family recipes handed down over many generation. Gradually, I began teaching genealogical research, including participation as guest speaker/facilitator at various local genealogical societies, non-credit courses at St. Petersburg Junior College (now St. Petersburg College), and workshops and seminars at Palm Beach Community College (now Palm Beach State College).
Additionally, this interest in genealogical research inspired my pursuit of a graduate degree in Library Science (Syracuse University) as my primary discipline of teaching and instruction. But this interest is also tied with interests in the rich tradition of art music that comes to us from all parts of Europe and that I began to learn through various choral groups from the 3rd grade onward. At the opposite end of the spectrum, this research interest developed into the utilitarian corporate and marketing research in business and industry.
The Internet has made genealogy easier. I have begun researching a family and within hours worked back to the American Revolution, something which took me 20-30 years to do because I had to painstackingly find which library had the census and vital records, visit the library, find the specific record for my family and then copy the information, sometimes using microfilm. With these steps reduced, one can at least complete the basic family tree in a shorter time period. There is a word of caution. One also must realize that just because the information comes from the web, does not necessarily make it accurate and reliable. Too many times contemporary researchers miss this point. There are also many vital records which are still not available on the web and these records are more crucial as viable proof than the census records. Besides all of this, libraries still maintain a huge amount of information outside of census records. The basic information is easier to find and has cut down on the time spent researching this information, but there still remains a great deal of leg work to make certain the job is done correctly.
----- Professor Douglas Willet Cornwell (last updated June 22, 2016)