Brenda Gibson, salon owner. In her other life: amateur genealogist.
“Knowing our pasts helps explain who we are and why we are like we are,” says Brenda Gibson, owner of The Brenda Gibson Center for Nails in Perrysburg, Ohio. Just an infant at the time, Gibson was in the house when her paternal grandmother was murdered in 1951. “I missed having a connection with her and her side of the family,” she says, explaining one of the motivations behind her study of genealogy. “Our family history is that the Rogers clan (her maiden name) came over on the Mayflower. My goal is to trace my roots back that far, but I am stuck at a ‘great great’ who was supposedly killed in the civil war,” she says.
Her investigations have uncovered wealth, power, poverty, bootlegging, rum runners, and murderers. “I have met a whole line of family I never knew existed because we were from one of the ‘illegitimate’ lines of my great-granddad, who was known as The Old 49er, because at one point they figured he had that many kids,” she says.
For those who are interested in uncovering their own family histories, she recommends starting online — and with your own living relatives. “There are free websites, like rootsweb.com and the Mormon website (www.familysearch.org) that you can use. You need to type in a name and perhaps a birth date or birth location,” she says. “I find a lot of info on Ancestry.com, which is a paid site, but it’s worth it. There are sites for Ellis Island where you can find what ships came in and who was on them.” In addition, she says, “Pick the brains of all of the elders in your family. Have a list of questions to ask — everything from where were you born (in a hospital or at home) to have you ever been in jail. Ask about family names, birth dates and locations, and get as much family history as possible.
“The most important thing I have is a sense of family and if I can pass that and the love of God onto my child and grandchildren, I will be a happy woman.”