Every genealogist remembers the moment when they were bit by the genealogy bug, when they broke through one of their brick walls, or when they won $20,000 for their very own personal family history journey.
Well… I don’t remember the latter happening to me either, but Carolyn S. from Youngstown, Ohio does.
That’s because Carolyn is the Grand Prize winner of the Ultimate Family History Journey™ Sweepstakes that took place earlier this year. As the Grand Prize winner, Carolyn was awarded $20,000 in travel money, an 8 hour consultation with an expert genealogist, help from up to 5 experts in the fields relevant to her family history, an annual World Deluxe Subscription for herself and 5 more World Deluxe Subscriptions for her family.
For those of you that didn’t know about the sweepstakes, we awarded one lucky winner the Grand Prize and twenty entrants a World Deluxe Ancestry.com subscription. We had more than 850,000 entrants, but Carolyn was the fortunate one to win the $20,000 in travel money to put towards her ultimate family history journey.
We had a chance to talk with Carolyn about her family history story and find out her plans for her own family history journey.
Carolyn started researching her family history full-time in November of 2009. You may think she is new to family history, but this genealogist is no novice. Carolyn spends nearly 10 hours a day working on her family history and has already added more than 800 ancestors to her family tree.
Of all of the stories and history she has discovered, she says the greatest thing she has done so far is to uncover details about her grandparents.
“We were a very close family growing up – my parents and siblings. My grandparents died when I was two years old and we never talked about family outside of ourselves. To me there are a lot of family mysteries,” she said. “In fact, when I started, everyone thought my one grandfather’s name was George and it wasn’t. It was James.”
Through Member Connect on Ancestry.com Carolyn was able to reach out and find new cousins who had more information about her grandparents. It was those cousins that sent her photos, stories and memories of her grandparents. Until that moment, Carolyn only had pictures of her grandparents in their old age.
“They sent pictures to me of my grandparents when they were young,” Carolyn reminisced. “When I saw them as young people, my connection to them became so much stronger.”
Carolyn attributes her love of family history to the desires she always had to know her grandparents better. She hopes to use the genealogy experts to break down some of her family history walls, including information about her father’s brother who the family never knew.
“I also want to find my great-great-grandfather or grandmother on both sides,” Carolyn said. “But it’s hard when everyone in the family has the name James.”
Her great-great-grandparents are from Ireland and Wales and Carolyn hopes to uncover details about this side of her family.
“I always thought Ireland would be a great place to visit, never thinking that something like this would ever happen. If I go to Ireland, I’ll have to go to Wales too,” she said.
Carolyn’s winnings are something that many of us will only be able to dream about in our lifetime. Yet we are so excited that she’ll be able to take this journey and uncover the mysteries in her family.
$20,000 is a lot of cash to use on an ultimate family history journey. What would you want to discover if you had won the grand prize?
About Heather Erickson
Heather Erickson is Head of Global Communications for Ancestry.com and has been with the company since 2009.