I've found a new, totally addictive hobby (as if I really needed another one)! I'm working on my family tree. A friend of mine got me started on it at www.ancestry.com, where it turns out they have a lot of old records digitalized and searchable. So you can see the actual 1920 federal Census record of your ancestors. This includes information on their address, who was living with them, their age and marital status, where they and their parents were born and their occupation. Plus you can find military records, draft registrations etc. in the person's own writing; and emigration and migration records--every time they entered the country during a certain time period.
It's like a jigsaw puzzle with no end! A month ago, I could only name four living relatives--my brother, my father, an aunt that I'm not even sure how she's related to me, and my mother's cousin. Now, I see that I could essentially find zillions of relatives. In fact, I think that there is a project out there to link as many people in the world as possibly through one world tree.
Every time I look up one relative, I find many more--their spouses, children, relatives of their spouses, etc. And the best part is that I've actually contacted some of these people. It's tricky, because the link between a name on official government records doesn't always match the name someone goes by. And there are often many people with the same name obviously. But I have managed to find three people who are related to me just by sending random emails to people that sound right! One of them had worked on a family tree for my father's side of the family, so that's given me so much more information. Another one is the son of someone who has worked on the tree on my mother's side, and I'm hoping to get all her information too.
I had a few misses too. People with the right names living in approximately the right place, but not related to me. They've happily shared with me their own origins too.
Along the way, I've found some mysteries. I can't find my grandmother anywhere. I've found the rest of her family, all living happily together, at a time when she should have been already born and still young enough to live there. But she's not there. I've found one gruncle (my dad's uncle) who was in a reformatory for boys at age 16--I don't know what he did to get in there!!
I seriously wish I could do this for my profession. It's like being a detective without the dangerous aspect. Following links and searching for clues. What fun!