By Anthony Flores
Humans tend to be naturally curious creatures, and for many, there is a thrill in solving a mystery, connecting each dot until the full picture comes into view.
During COVID-19 quarantine, Liberty Hill resident Julie Dupree has committed a large part of her time to solve her own family mysteries through genealogy.
“The cool thing about genealogy is that it hits all these different things,” Dupree said. “I like mysteries, I can go solve a mystery. I like history, I can read about history, or it can simply be that you have an interest in where you came from. The cool thing to me is that I get to put my history into context and how we came to be as a culture and a family.”
Genealogy is the study of families, family history, and the tracing of their lineages. Dupree’s hobby finds its roots in her interest in history, birthed by her family’s similar interest and tracking of their history.
“My grandparents — both sets of my grandparents — were big into antiques and history. My parents were involved in Civil War reenactments so, I was really immersed in the whole history of life and U.S. History,” she said. “My grandmother in Cape Cod was very much the genealogist and the family storyteller, and I was asking her questions because I was already interested in history.”
The amateur sleuth grandmother stoked her interest in history, telling tales of ancestors much to the delight of a young Dupree.
“I would ask her questions specific to the portraits she had hanging in the hallway of her house, and it ranged from pictures of my grandparents in the 1830s all the way up to pictures from the 1960s,” she said. “She wove these stories of who they were as people. As I got older, I asked more and more. So, it was just a natural extension to get into the documentation of the family tree.”
With the advent of the internet and the ease created by websites like Ancestry.com, newspaper.com, and various indexes, becoming an amateur sleuth is easier than ever. The combination of accessibility, free time COVID opens up, and interest in history make this the perfect pastime for Dupree.
“Between being online and Ancestry indexing all the census records since like the beginning of time. They have so many different indexes and databases that are connected to the state level and federal level,” she said. “Newspapers from throughout the country going back to the mid-1700s are now posted on Newspapers.com. You can spend hours on there and search by name and region.”
On top of the deep indexes and databases available, over the last two decades, another scientific side of the research has come a long way.
“Recently with DNA, that has added a whole other level,” Dupree said. “Now I’m able to meet cousins, second and third cousins that I never even knew existed. We were able to combine our life stories together.”
Over the summer, Dupree connected with family, that until her recent research, she was not aware of. Somewhere over the years, two sides of Dupree’s family had a falling out, leading to the big disconnect. Dupree believes the disconnect is ignited by a difference in political ideology.
“It was so cool to actually talk with my cousin on the other side of this and ask what they think happened,” she said. “We’re starting to swap pictures, and I’m like, ‘Hey I think this is your dad, but I’m not sure. He’s holding a little girl,’ and she was like, ‘Oh, that’s me.’ It’s crazy.”
While working to track down her ex-husband’s father to fill out her daughter’s family tree, Dupree connected with her ex-husband’s half-sister. She was also searching for his identity. After solving this mystery, Dupree began a back and forth and was able to learn about and attempt to understand someone who held vastly different beliefs from her own.
“I got to talk to her, and she’s a truck driver and very conservative,” she said. “The interesting thing, because we weren’t really tight and don’t share a long history, I was able to ask how did she wind up with this mindset. I count this as one of the best gifts I’ve gotten throughout all of the quarantine, being able to share these hour-long conversations with her. Seeing how someone can be from the same biological family and how you wind up so completely polar opposite.”
Being able to have a civil conversation where both sides are open to new ideas is the most satisfying thing about Dupree’s endeavor over the last few months. Dupree, who leans toward being more liberal, is learning more about the beliefs on the other end of the spectrum.
“She was open to the conversation and explained her beliefs, and my response was, ‘Okay, well, here is another spin on it.’ She was actually listening, and we were having a civil conversation,” she said. “I’ve learned some stuff from her. It’s not that she’s against Black Lives Matter, it’s that she grew up in that same neighborhood. When she hears someone say Black lives matter, she thinks about how she had to suffer through the same thing, but nobody cared about that.”
For Dupree, this hobby isn’t just something to do during this time where so many are stuck at home. This is a way to remind herself of the importance of not losing connections with family, with friends, with her fellow man. Whether it be political or for some other reason.
“So right now, we are living in a pretty politically polarizing time, and this is keeping me in touch with my uncle that is very conservative,” she said. “It keeps the context of regardless of anything we’re still blood, and we still have to talk, but we don’t have to agree.”