It was back in grade school. I don't recall all the details but we were supposed to draw up a family tree. My mother said she thought a distant cousin of hers had traced our tree WAY back to around the time of Alexander the Great. We never did see who might have done that research or confirm it. My tree for that assignment consisted of me, my parents, my grandparents and one single great-grandfather. I was definitely interested in finding out more but I didn't know how to do it.
About 30 years later, my mother was given the Panther family history book, written by Mary Ann Messer and Anita Vantiger. It had a lot of information but nothing beyond my great-grandparents on that branch of the tree. I decided to use this information to start a genealogy database using Personal Ancestral File, put out by Family Search and the Mormon Church. There were a lot of names in my newly created database but it didn't go very far back in time.
A year or two later, my mother gave me a partial transcription of the Menke family history by Jim Menke. I proceeded to put that information into my database. This branch didn't have many names but it went back quite a ways. It was a family twig, going back to my 6x-great-grandparents, about the year 1700 in and around Schwagstorf, Hanover, Germany. I was very happy. I still knew nothing about my father's ancestors other than his parents and I knew nothing more of the Panther family.
I had mentioned my desire to research our family history to my mother and she mentioned a book sent to my brother from a Sister Catherine Seemann. Sister Catherine is a nun in Canada that researched the Bixenman family. Philomena Bixenman was my great-grandmother. I had never heard of her before. My brother gave me the book. In it was a letter addressed to both him and me! Apparently since he wasn't interested, he assumed I wasn't either. I took the book and began transferring the information into my database. During my research, I discovered that a family we grew up with and knew in our hometown (which, by the way is nowhere near where either of my parents grew up) were our distant cousins. This book told me who my great-grandfather was on my dad's dad's side and also gave a huge amount of information of my great-grandmother's ancestors on this branch. This brought my family history information back to my 5x-great-grandparents on this branch around Treherz, Baden, Germany. The difference is that there were a few more of the ancestors filling out the tree so this branch was more than the twig of my Menke branch.
Still, no information about the Panther family, which I've always had a fascination with. I guess I just love the name, plus it was the last name of the cousins I hung out with during our visits back to my mom and dad's home town area. I kept looking for them. We were always told they were from Baden-Baden, Germany. I looked at the church records from Baden-Baden and didn't find my great-grandfather there. I started looking through the church records, one village at a time, in the various villages south of Baden-Baden. I did a search on familysearch.org for anyone of this last name. When I found one, I ordered the microfilm from the Mormon Church to see if I could find the baptismal record of my great-grandfather. I had found many Panthers in Stadelhofen but not my great-grandfather. Eventually, the daughter of my cousin found them in Moesbach. I was just as happy about it as she was. We worked together using images that were online but once these were exhausted, I ordered microfilm from the Mormon Church. Eventually, I discovered that my great-great-great-grandfather had moved to Moesbach from Stadelhofen. Those Panthers I had found in Stadelhofen actually were my relations. I just didn't know it when I found them! I used the microfilms of the Moesbach, Stadelhofen and Ulm area of Baden, Germany. I ended up scanning in ALL of the pages of the church books I had there. Now I have them all on my hard drive to search at my leisure. I've traced this branch of my family tree back to 27 of my 8x-great-grandparents and 42 of my 7x-great-grandparents. I've also been researching the ancestry of others from this area. Call it an addiction but if the information is there and someone wants it, I want to provide it to them.
Now, I've also started an indexing project. I hope to index the baptismal, marriage and death records of ALL of these church records. This way, if anyone is from this area, I would have a relatively easy time researching their ancestry. Eventually, once it's all indexed, I'd like to import all the individuals into a database so we could potentially have the entire ancestry (that is available from these church records) of anyone from these villages. I think that wraps up any projects I may be able to work on for the next 50 years!