Michael L. Strauss tells us about his journey to, and love for, genealogy.
Strauss is a professional Accredited Genealogist (ICAPGen), and a nationally recognized speaker. He' s a native of Pennsylvania and a resident of Utah. He is featured on Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems with his monthly segment of "Military Minutes." He is a faculty member at SLIG, GRIP, and IGHR where he is the military course coordinator. He's been involved in both Civil War and Mexican War reenactments for more than 25 years with membership with the 99th NY Infantry, Battery A, 5th US Artillery, and most recently, the Utah Living History Association.
How did you get into genealogy?
I started at a very young age doing genealogy research. I am a native of Pennsylvania and I was given a humanities assignment in school (in a Pennsylvania history class), at the age of twelve to research my family history. I knew very little about my heritage outside of my grandparents basic information and sought to find out more. Once I interviewed my immediate family members, I become instantly hooked on genealogy and have actively researched since then for more than forty years.
Why was it important to find out about military history?
Studying military history isn't all about the tactics and the logistics surrounding the commanders of great armies on the battlefield. Although important to study; it is more about gaining an understanding of why some succeeded where others failed; and knowing why our ancestors fought alongside those leaders. In the end, it is about a better understanding of our military ancestors' sacrifices who served and they serve as examples to us today.
When it comes to research, what would you say is the most important factor for success?
To be diligent in your search for your ancestors. It is important to not become discouraged if you can't find what you seek. Inevitably, you will discover genealogical brick walls that may at the outset seem impassable; but thinking through the problems will encourage you to try another pathway and move towards success.
How can knowing about military history benefit you today?
Over the course of history, military records have experienced losses due to natural or accidental disasters. By knowing military history, you can be better prepared to find answers to questions about a military ancestor by knowing where to search for records that can reconstruct someone's service where everything may have been lost.
What interests you about gravestones and epitaphs of our ancestors?
I have had a fascination with most things related to genealogy, and have spent countless hours in cemeteries looking for gravestones of my distant family members. It is especially rewarding when I find a gravestone that has symbols carved into the marker, or a message left by a long distant relative that allows me to discover something more personal about their lives; and how at the end of the day, they are much the same as we are today.
What can an attendee of the upcoming conference expect to gain from your seminars?
For someone who attends my seminar, institute, or conference, they should expect to find new clues and other pathways that may not have been considered before to bring about successful research. It is also about learning the methodology behind the bringing out the small details about our ancestors' lives, thereby not limiting our memories to dates and names.