I have started doing indexing for the church's genealogy website. I have found that fewer things have stirred my imagination more than seeing little glimpses of people's lives in historical documents. Right now it's nothing but the 1940 census so I see a lot of pages filled with family information on individual blocks. Take, for example, the family who lived in Westmoreland County Virginia - a widowed mother with six sons from the age of 25 to 40, all single, all still living at home. How come these guys couldn't get dates? Were they all tragically disfigured? Socially inept? Was it bad breath? Were they circus performers who had given their lives to the stage? Did the father die in a high wire act gone terribly wrong? Don't they have single girls in the circus? That poor mother. Or maybe she was the problem. You know, never thinking any girls were good enough for her boys, especially those floozies over in the dog training tent.
Or what about the family with immigrant parents (from Bohemia, no less) who had two daughters, ages 19 and 21, and a gentleman lodger. Was he a teacher at the school? Did he have a dashing mustache? I bet both girls were in love with him. And I also bet that he wasn't in love with either of them but was secretly dating the girl next door, named Mildred, of course.
I am fascinated by the family who lived in the rural south with a mother only 30 years old but with 10 children. Or the family in Colorado with a father born in Iowa and a mother born in Arkansas. How did they meet? And how did they end up in Colorado. And why did they have two sons named Robert?
One of my best discoveries, though, has nothing to do with families. It is that there is a city in Virginia called Pittsville. I wonder how fitting it is.