Doing genealogical research is like putting together a colorful giant jigsaw puzzle.  At first there is a confusing array of individual pieces, but when they can be joined together properly they make a complete picture.   But in the beginning it is a puzzle, as one writer says, “whose borders are missing and whose images are unclear. Often a single source…must be parsed and stretched to fill in gaps in what happened, or what may have happened, in the past.” [1]

And there is usually no straightforward way to go about it; one fits in a piece here, another piece there, and only some time later is there the means to understand how it comes together.  Modern “search engines” online are an enormous help in locating those missing pieces, and it is this detective work that makes it fun.

So anyone who launches into learning more about family history usually finds himself or herself deep into history, social and cultural mores, the economy at any given time, and even the vagaries of weather, as for example, when a supply ship on the way to the tiny Virginia colony at Jamestown carrying the new governor is blown off course by a hurricane and shipwrecks instead on the uninhabited island that would later be called Bermuda–delaying for a year the arrival in Virginia of all onboard and also providing the backstory for Shakespeare’s The Tempest!  

All these threads, woven this way and that, are the intriguing stuff of genealogical research.  I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to live in a time when online archives all over the world have opened up to me the unending source material that reveals how we are, at last, all connected.

At the Lake, New Mexico, photo by Christina Robertson, CC 2.0

At the Lake, New Mexico, photo by Christina Robertson, CC 2.0













[1] A Tale of Two Colonies,” Virginia Bernhard, for purchase at

For other works by Virginia Bernhard, visit



Image Credit:  Photo by Christina Robertson, CC2.0