Years ago, my mother and one of my aunts started to do some serious research on our family history. They produced sizable notebooks that could be easily updated. Eventually, they were able to trace the family far beyond the American Revolution and back to Europe.
It was a major but invaluable project. There are English, German, and French branches on my side (with some Irish and Scottish as well) while my wife's family brings in Hungarians and Slovenians. There are rumors of a Turk but they have not been confirmed.
The entire process resembled a detective story, complete with dead-ends, skeletons in the closet, and breaks. At one point, my aunt contacted a German priest about some records and learned that the German side of the family was conducting its own search. They soon joined forces and huge amounts of information began to go back and forth across the Atlantic.
One of my sisters has now jumped into the game and is making rapid progress. It is an odd hobby, but thoroughly addictive. Once you find an ancestor out there on the fringes, you immediately wonder, "Where's the rest of that family?"