Confession: I’m a GeneaFreak in My Sleep

Confession: I’m a GeneaFreak in My Sleep

by Kerry Scott on 12 May 2014

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One morning when I was a sophomore in high school, I woke up naked. I found my pajamas across the room, on the floor, neatly folded, with a book placed on top of them.

That’s how I found out I was a sleepwalker.

Lots of people walk in their sleep as kids, but it’s somewhat less common when you’re an adult. Apparently my brain likes to be less common, because I started at 16 and I’ve been doing it ever since.

When I was 18, I got my braces off, and they gave me a retainer. I wore it to bed for two nights. On the third morning, I woke up and it was gone. Those things are expensive, and I tore everything apart looking for it. I found it two years later, in one of the credit card slots of an unused wallet, which had been placed in a small purse, which had been placed in a larger purse, which had been placed in a suitcase. Apparently my sleeping self really wanted that retainer gone. 

When I was in my mid-20s, I worked for the phone company (Bell Atlantic alumni, holla!). One of the perks of working for the phone company is that we got all of the fancy features before everyone else. Our voice mail system had this option where you could press a button and hear what number the message-leaver had called you from. This was cutting edge technology in 1997.

One day I came to work and found that I had a voice mail waiting. I listened to it, and my blood ran cold. It was a female relative of mine, slurring her words…but it sounded like she was saying she’d been stabbed and was trying to name her killer. Seriously, that’s what it sounded like. It was terrifying.

My heart was pounding. My hands were shaking. I pressed the button to see where the call had come from.

The robot voice started with the area code: 703. [That's Alexandria, Virginia.]

Well, that’s odd, I thought. I lived in area code 703. All of my relatives lived out west, but the voice was absolutely that of a family member. I recognized it immediately.

Then the robot voice gave the prefix: 931. How weird, I thought. That’s my prefix. The call came from my neighborhood. How is that possible? Was my relative trying to visit me when she was murdered?

Then the robot voice gave the rest of the phone number: 7735.


It was my phone number. The call came from Sleeping Me. The voice was familiar because my voice apparently sounds like that of my female relatives. I called myself in the middle of the night, while asleep, to tell myself that I was being murdered and to name my killer. Only a genealogist, right?

Two nights later, I started sending bizarre emails to my boss. That lasted several days. It was not awesome. He probably still tells people about this weird chick from the 90s who sent him emails in her sleep.

I’ve been doing strange stuff like this in my sleep off and on for twenty-[mumble] years now. It’s tapered off a bit as I’ve gotten older, and it tapered off more when I had kids. My theory is that working and having small children is so exhausting that even my sleepwalking self is too tired to be up doing crazy stuff.

I still sometimes wake up to find things rearranged, notes that don’t make sense, bruises (and sometimes broken toes) that weren’t there when I went to bed, etc. I seem to mostly go into my office when I’m asleep. I’m lucky that my kids are sound sleepers, because I’m guessing the site of Zombie Mama going past their bedrooms to get to the office would be unsettling.

A couple of weeks ago, I got a notice from Facebook saying that a guy had accepted my friend request. I thought that was odd, because I hadn’t sent out any friend requests in a long time. I also thought it was odd that the guy had the same name as an ancestor of mine. I figured it was an error or spam or something.

Then, the next day, I got another notice saying that my friend request had been accepted. This person was also a complete stranger who had the same name as a different ancestor.

After the third one, I went into my Facebook activity log. Apparently I spent 35 minutes one night friending people who have the same name as my ancestors. There were 22 of them.

And that, my friends, is why I am Queen of the GeneaFreak Prom.

NOTE: I’ve finally gotten around to updating my Amazon Store, particularly the section that includes the Fiction/Sit-and-Read books. If you’re looking for something to read this summer, check it out.


Photo by Elias Quezada

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Suzanne Lucas--Evil HR Lady May 12, 2014 at 2:17 pm

You? Awesome. Almost makes me want to start doing my genealogy. Almost. Not quite. And I hate to think what kind of emails I’d send out in my sleep.


Kerry Scott May 12, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Start! Do it! DOOOO IT!


Suzanne Lucas--Evil HR Lady May 12, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Sending out emails in my sleep or genealogy?

I have to admit that part of the reason I haven’t done family history is that I have a bunch of relatives who are super into it. SUPER into it. Like one of my cousins designs genealogy software for a living. So, I really don’t need to do anything on my family because I can just ask them.

But no one knows anything about my husband’s family because shhhhh, we don’t talk about that! Which is kind of intriguing.

Maybe I’ll just send out weird emails while awake.


Kerry Scott May 12, 2014 at 2:31 pm

How do you resist the pull of your husband’s family? When I hear, “We don’t talk about that,” I’m like that experiment where they told the kids they could have a bunch of candy if they refrained from eating a marshmallow for 10 minutes. I’m chomping on that marshmallow before they even finish the sentence.


Suzanne Lucas--Evil HR Lady May 12, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Because they really DON’T TALK ABOUT IT. I’m not even sure how to spell his grandmother’s maiden name. (It’s spelled wrong on great grandma’s headstone.) I asked, and was told I don’t need to know that. And PA won’t release birth certificates to me becauase they specifically don’t provide birth certificate for genealogy purposes! I’d have to get grandma to do it and if she’d just tell me I wouldn’t need it anyway!

And now one of them is going to read this comment and I’m going to bet banned from family dinners! This is tragic because grandma makes the best cookies, ever!

Julie Goucher @ Anglers Rest May 12, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Kerry, Love it! I have never sleepwalked or known any family members that did/do. What is so amazing is that these people all accepted the friend requests from a random stranger. Equally though I am impressed at your dedication that you dream about your ancestors whilst sleeping and walking. :)


Kerry Scott May 12, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Only three of the 22 had friended me back before I realized something was off. I canceled the remaining friend requests, so those folks are probably wondering why they got a friend notice from a stranger that disappeared. This happened about six weeks ago, and I’ve been holding my breath hoping Facebook wouldn’t suspend me for suspicious behavior or something.


Banai Lynn Feldstein May 12, 2014 at 2:51 pm

My parents used to blame me for forgetting to set my alarm in high school all the time. In college, when I had no roommate, one night I fell asleep with the light on, the stereo on, the alarm set, and the door locked. I woke up to the light off, the stereo off, the alarm off, and the door was chained. I proved them wrong.

I moved furniture in my sleep once too. I woke up and immediately kicked the dresser because I’d pushed the bed around and moved a couple of smaller things. I vaguely remembered the dream too, in which I was arranging furniture.

I thought I was weird for these, but your story takes the cake. I’ve never turned off my alarm in my sleep since using my PDA and now my Androids for alarms. I can’t imagine using my computer in my sleep. Creepy. Do you check your browser history a lot? Maybe you should install some program that watches your every move on the computer just so you can see what you did.


Kerry Scott May 12, 2014 at 2:59 pm

I wasn’t monitoring my browser history before this. I considered it, but to be honest, I don’t want to know. It’s unsettling.

I moved furniture once too, back when I lived alone. I freaked out when I woke up and saw it. These things always make for funny stories after the fact, but at the time, they’re straight-up creepy.


Debi Austen May 12, 2014 at 4:43 pm

When I first got my braces and headgear, I hated the stupid headgear and dangit, it HURT. I woke up one morning and mine was gone, too, but I found it on the other side of the room where I’d, apparently, pitched it during the night. I can’t imagine not finding it for 2 years!

That’s as close as I can come to sleep walking but I do talk a lot in my sleep. Once when I was at camp I sat up in the middle of the night, yelled out The Dick Van Dyke Show, and promptly laid back down and went back to sleep. :-)


Kerry Scott May 12, 2014 at 4:54 pm

Well, we’ve all yelled out “The Dick Van Dyke Show” at some point in our lives, haven’t we?


Debi Austen May 13, 2014 at 10:03 am

Well I know I have ;-)


Keith Riggle May 12, 2014 at 5:54 pm

Very funny story! Seriously, though, I think help is available for somnambulism.


g johns May 13, 2014 at 10:13 am

was a sleep walker sometimes as a child, teens and early marriage. Thank goodness that stopped. Have sleep talking kids. Am glad I am not now with the computer tech advancement :) good luck! A mother’s mind is always thinking about other things – kids/money/genealogy, and always walking up to the noises of kids and others in the home.


Ann May 13, 2014 at 10:18 am

I don’t think I have – yet – researched while sleeping. On nights when I can’t sleep, I get up and research until I get tired enough to go back to bed.

I do have a recurring dream about the magic database with many of the answers to my brick-wall questions. I wake up beating myself up for having forgotten to check that database :)

If that database only existed …


Kerry Scott May 13, 2014 at 10:54 am

OMG. I’ve totally had that dream too.


Linda Arthur Tejera May 13, 2014 at 10:39 am

I’m sorry but you made me laugh out loud. I hope you can laugh about this stuff now. Although I suppose if it was about me, I wouldn’t be laughing! Oh, dear! I have yet to dream about my ancestors although I do think about them a lot! ;)


Sue Griffith May 13, 2014 at 7:49 pm

I can totally relate, as I’m an adult sleep-walker and sleep-talker too. My mother mentioned it to the GP when I was about 12 yo and she was told I would grow out of it — but I haven’t (more than 40 years later). As with you, the frequency has decreased with time — and I rarely awoke with my retainer and head-gear in place as a teenager. Several times I’ve woken up thinking I was in a room-full of people in my normal bed-time attire (my birthday suit) — and so crawled along the wall of the bedroom, hugging the wall, so no-one would see me, to get out of the room! I’ve woken up with no pillows on my bed, and have known straight away that they were behind the curtains, or under the bed (because I can remember putting them there in my sleep). Over the last few years, I’ve had a recurring “baby dream”, where I sit bolt-upright in bed and start talking out aloud in a panicked voice, thinking I’ve neglected a baby for days on end (no food, no changing of diaper/nappy), and have sometimes even gone to check in another bedroom that the baby wasn’t there, lying dead — it’s almost like I’ve had an abortion (I haven’t) or have neglected children (I’ve never had any) and they are coming back to haunt me. More recently, I’ve been talking in my sleep about DNA testing or genealogy (I spend a lot of time during my normal hours on both). When I wake up during one of these episodes, I feel pretty stupid, especially if anyone else is around to witness it. It doesn’t bother me, because I’ve never done anything dangerous. I’ve occasionally written myself unintelligible notes, but I’ve not yet sent any e-mails in my sleep.


Caroline Gurney May 14, 2014 at 4:03 am

If it’s any consolation, Sue, I also have recurring “neglected baby” dreams. They began right after my granddaughter was born. The human subconscious is a weird thing – but none weirder than Kerry’s it seems!


Andrea Kelleher May 14, 2014 at 6:07 am

Kerry, you have such an awesome attitude about this. Love this post! I don’t sleepwalk but husband did when he was a kid and my son when he was very little used to sleep walk on occasion. I can’t even imagine how unsettling that must be to wake up and know you’ve done things but are not sure what they were. Your mind must have a lot of things it still wants to get done even when the rest of you is tired. Thanks for sharing.


Jana Last May 16, 2014 at 10:20 am


I want to let you know that your awesome blog post is listed in today’s Fab Finds post at

Have a wonderful weekend!


Kerry Scott May 16, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Thank you!


Susie Reynolds June 8, 2014 at 10:53 pm

So, I’m 27 days behind in reading on my Feedly, unable to sleep, and I’m slugging through post after serious post, almost in a coma and about ready to finally go to bed, and then Bam! Here’s your post and I just woke my son up by laughing, and he’s clear across the house. I’m glad I didn’t give up on the feeds before I got here. I’m sure it’s not so funny to you, but the fact that you called yourself at work and left a message, about your murderer was absolutely hilarious to me. I have some really wild elaborate dreams, and most of the time I can remember about half of them. I wish I’d call myself and tell me all about it as it’s going on! Thank you for the laugh, and I do hope your sleep walking continues to dwindle.


Leslie Ann June 11, 2014 at 8:16 pm

Kerry, I can always count on you to make me laugh! I have been known to grill my ancestors in my sleep, but I haven’t yet got up out of bed and done it through the computer.


Suzie June 25, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Just happened upon your blog today after someone posted a link on some Genealogy group; and I had seen the funny post about Ancestry outage before. But your sleepwalking story had me laughing a really good laugh – and not because I am a sleepwalker, but because I know how addictive this stuff is! I am like the other poster that dreams about it and solving the brick wall moments. I even wake up tired because I believe my brain is still trying to ‘connect the dots’ while my body is asleep!

Thank you for the good laugh and I look forward to your future posts!


Adam Murphy July 15, 2014 at 4:49 pm

If you’re having trouble sleeping and need something to do – why don’t you scour over our county clerks record contact info over at ??! :-p We just updated our contact info data base for genealogy researchers!


Sharon September 28, 2014 at 4:03 am

Kerry you made me laugh so much. Thank you!

I thought I was going to read about another person who talks to dead ancestors in their dreams! Yeah I am a bit of a GeaneaFreak too!

I am feeling worried for you being a sleep walker (could be very dangerous) but a great post!


Jenifer Jones October 28, 2014 at 8:58 pm

At least you weren’t late for work because you had put your alarm clock in the fridge! Try telling that excuse to your boss!


Kerry Scott May 12, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Suzanne—You heard about the Pennsylvania death certs that are on Ancestry now, right? They have 1906-1924 now, and they expect to have them up to 1944 by June and 1963 by November. They had a HUGE change in legislation recently (I can’t recall how recently, but within the past year or two, I think). Births from 1906 to 1908 are supposed to be there sometime next year.

Also: Newspapers. I’ve spent the entire school year reading newspapers for one branch, and I have solved so many problems I stopped counting. If they’re from a big city, it’s not much help unless the scandal was really huge, but those small town papers have a mention for each time someone sneezed.


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