Genealogy is the second-fastest growing hobby throughout the world, with gardening ranking first, but even with its popularity it’s rare to find young adults who consider themselves a genealogist.
That is, unless you’re Stevilyn Owen of Burlison.
The precocious 13-year-old is a promising genealogist thru and thru. Her mother, Laurel Hamilton Owen, calls her an “old soul.”
“She has always loved to hear stories of her family,” said Laurel. “She’s not a big talker, but she listens and soaks it up. She’s an old soul, inside and out. The way she dresses, the way she wears her hair… she’s like my tiny little librarian …”
Stevi is homeschooled and her siblings are all much older than she is, so she spends her time researching two of her favorite subjects: history and family.
“My half-siblings’ mom is a genealogist, and they were telling me about doing a DNA test, and that sparked my interest.” said Stevi. “I find history interesting, and I think it’s really important to know history.”
“She lost two grandfathers in a matter of weeks’ time,” revealed Laurel, “my father and my husband’s father, and I think that’s part of what started her interest in genealogy. She wanted to learn what they had done in their lives and in their military service.”
One of Stevi’s inspirations is her Uncle Harry Hamilton, who is also a genealogist.
“I’ve been inspired by my uncle who is a historian, and he does genealogy too,” she said. “He went to Georgia to see my great-grandmother and wrote a really long story about her life and parents and it’s really cool. I believe that when you do find a picture of someone who is actually your ancestor, you know more about yourself.”
With a thirst of knowledge, and support from her parents, Laurel and John Owen, Stevi has already taken a six-week online genealogy program from famed Strathmore University in Glasgow, Scotland, and has developed a website, A Young Historian, where she writes biographies of the family members she finds in her research. She has also researched the proper techniques for cleaning headstones and feels connected to her family members when she is able to help preserve their final resting places.
“She’s amazing,” said her mom. “I never really got that much into history or genealogy, and she loves it! The further back she can go, the more excited she gets.”
She is also a member of the The Hidden Branch, a Facebook group whose members describe themselves as a new generation of genealogists that grew up in the digital age and advocate for Gen Z researchers in the field of genealogy.
“These are teenagers who come together to help other teenagers with genealogy,” said Stevi. “It’s kids from all countries, who just want to learn their history.”
One of Stevi’s favorite genealogy sites is Find-A-Grave, so she loves to walk cemeteries to find photos of graves and upload them to the Find-A-Grave website so distant family members can see the graves of their deceased relatives.
“Sometimes she gets kind of frustrated that other people aren’t as interested in it as she is,” said Laurel. “She wants her brothers and sisters to notice what she’s doing, but they’re older and living their lives. But, I am so proud of her and love that she loves it.”