Growing up, I always heard that Mom's family was Austrian, and that Dad's family was vaguely British, with a strain of Scandinavian. There were other details, such as the name of the village both my maternal grandparents' parents had come from, and a supposedly "colorful" character on Dad's side who had once owned a circus.
I've often been curious about filling in the holes -- sometimes rather large ones that the most knowledgeable didn't want to talk about. But those people are dying off, and that history is being lost.
I've toyed with genealogy in the past, but while I was out of work for nearly a year, I really started pursuing some of these leads. The release of the 1940 U.S. Census was another push -- that census, taken just before the U.S. got involved in WWII, contains the names of my grandparents, the people I'm most likely to know their full names and birthdates. I now have a family tree that goes several generations back on my mom's side, and at least back to my great-grandparents on my dad's side. From there, things get tricky as emigration comes into play; without a paid account, I generally only have access to free material from the U.S. on the larger, more well-known sites. Records from overseas, or even just from Canada, are harder to access.
But I'm also finding the names and dates don't do justice to the dramatic, everyday stories of those people. Divorce, remarriage, even a murder/suicide. Family members who disappear from available records after they leave home -- what happened to them? Was one of them really married multiple times, or do the historical documents have different names/nicknames for the same person? Plus, so many national borders changed with each war that what we call ourselves now is not necessarily how our ancestors thought of themselves -- that small village in Austria? Was actually part of Hungary before WWI, with a very different name. That makes a difference when you're trying to find records from the "wrong" country!
So here I am, just trying to dig up and preserve what I can; honor those people who made my family what it is now; and saving that information for my generation, and those after me. And who knows, someone even just "locally" famous might turn up. I might even find the truth of that circus story -- which I think might have been what got me interested to begin with.