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Exploring my roots blossomed into helping others track their family histories

A man standing behind a podium with a power point presentation on a projector screen asking the audience if they have any questions
Miles Meyer giving a talk on genealogy.

There’s an old Rodney Dangerfield joke where he says he studied his family tree and discovered he’s the “sap.” Fortunately, such wasn’t the case when I started investigating my roots several years ago. In fact, I’ve traced my roots back several hundred years to my early German ancestors.

One of the great benefits of working for the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service is its belief in work-life balance, allowing employees to pursue our own interests outside the office and providing the flexibility to take the time off needed to pursue these interests.

My interest is in genealogy. It began 25 years ago when I rediscovered an old family tree I made as an assignment in third grade. Seeing those three generations of family together made me ask how much more was there to my history. I wanted to discover the stories of my ancestors: what happened during their lives, what challenges they faced, and what they did for a living.

Over time, I gained expertise in doing internet genealogy research and started teaching others how to do their research. About 11 years ago while living in Jacksonville, Florida, I gathered a small group and planned our first regional genealogy conference. Over 400 people attended! That conference is preparing for its 10th annual meeting this spring.

I’ve since relocated to Vero Beach, Florida, and now work at the South Florida Ecological Services Office managing part of the Everglades Restoration Program. A few years ago I started a regional genealogy conference here in Vero Beach. We’re getting ready for our fourth annual conference this spring.

I currently do about 30 speaking events about genealogy each year in Florida, but my scope is spreading. Last February, I spoke at RootsTech in Salt Lake City, the largest genealogy conference in the world with over 25,000 attendees. In October, I spoke at the first genealogy conference of its kind held in London — a conference focused on research in European countries. Almost 10,000 people from 42 countries were there. This trip also gave my wife and me the opportunity to visit her ancestral home of England and discover new relatives.

A recent Emory University study found that the more children know about their family history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives and the higher their self-esteem. A big part of conservation is knowing and preserving our wildlife heritage. In that same vein, genealogy is about knowing and preserving our family heritage. Knowing both our family history and wildlife heritage makes us more compassionate, empathetic citizens. I derive a huge sense of pride and accomplishment from being engaged in both.

Contact

Miles Meyer, supervisory biologist
miles_meyer@fws.gov, (772) 469-4281

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