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Jennifer Huffman's Surrendering to Motherhood: Down the rabbit hole
Surrendering to Motherhood

Jennifer Huffman's Surrendering to Motherhood: Down the rabbit hole


My family grew by 551 people last week.

That’s because I started building my family tree on

I’m sure my dad is doing a giant fist pump in Heaven right now. When my dad was alive I mostly resisted his attempts to draw me into his family tree projects and endless genealogical research.

“This great, great, great uncle emigrated from Wales to blah, blah, blah,” he’d start to recite. He had folders of documents and charts and wrote about our family history with historical footnotes and examples.

I was not interested.

Maybe because I was an itty-bit overwhelmed trying to raise three very much living relatives, his granddaughters. I didn’t have time to wonder about how great, great, great Uncle Whozit ended up in Canada and then Niagara, NY. Did. not. have. the. bandwidth. Sorry, dad.

Something happened to me last week, though.

I actually paid for a membership in

What came over me? I don’t know! I saw an ad about “growing my family tree” and “discovering my history” and next thing you know I went down the rabbit hole.

Yep, they got me. And got me good.

I had created an Ancestry account a bunch of years ago. I did one of those DNA tests. No surprises. No unexplained relatives popped up or love-children from years ago. Just same old me.

But with the girls being older and mostly self-sustaining and coming up on the second holiday season without my dad, I’m feeling like maybe I was taking some of those family bonds for granted. Maybe it’s time for ME start keeping track of MY family.

So there I was on, clicking away, adding relatives left and right to my new family tree.

It was like following a trail of DNA breadcrumbs. And the database is so encouraging. Using DNA and birth and marriage records, there are plenty of clues to follow.

Do you think this is the mother of so-and-so in your tree? asks

Would you like to add this info to your family tree?

Sure! Why not?

I’m totally being a lazy genealogist. I’m relying on to steer me in the right direction. I clicked yes on all hints.

There’s so much info it’s like standing in front of a fire hose of found relatives. I bounced from ancestor to ancestor, randomly clicking on this fact or another. It’s like playing DNA pinball.

Who should I click on next? Margaret McQuarrie Evans of Ontario? Anna Maria Kalert from St. Louis? Should I concentrate on immediate relatives? DNA matches only? I need a plan. Or an tutor. Note to self: research experts of Napa Valley. Perhaps there’s a Facebook group.

The photos of my ancestors are the best part. Would you look at that – Little George Arthur Evans churning butter in 1928! Kitty Bauer in 1920 wearing a fabulous hat with elaborate ostrich feathers while looking over the Mississippi River. Little Harold Bauer sitting in a tiny cart being pulled by a shaggy goat in 1917.

I love the fashion too. Hello first cousin three times removed Anna Maria Caroline Werth. Your Victorian beaded bodice with flower crown and ruffled collar are simply fantastic. I very much appreciate your ruffled black wedding dress, ancestor Theresa Maria Shaeffer Striewe. And your new husband Louis Ludwig? A dashing fellow in his formal attire.

Even more mindblowing — I traced one part of my family tree back to 1485! Five hundred and thirty-five YEARS ago! According to my 12th great-grandmother Alice Ostler of Salop was born in 1485 in England.

I can’t even imagine what people were doing back in 1485. Was there running water? Were they wearing clothes of pounded felt and wooden shoes? Were they drinking mead from carved wooden horns? Would she ever imagine she’d have thousands of relatives in the future? Will *I* have thousands of relatives 500 years from now? OMG, the pressure.

What would my ancestors make of my family today? Would they believe the internet, cell phones, DNA, self-driving cars, COVID-19, photos from Mars?

Will my future ancestors see me in their family tree and wonder who the heck this Jennifer E. Huffman was?

And what is the answer?

I guess it’s the same for many of them: A mom. A wife. A daughter. A sister.

Nice to meet you, ancestors.

And a special thank you to Louis Ludwig and Theresa Maria for getting married. I wouldn’t be here without you.

Watch now: how to properly wear and wash your face mask:

Surrendering to Motherhood appears every other Monday. Follow Jennifer on Twitter: @NVRHuffman.

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

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