My interest in genealogy began after my mother's death in 1999. I remember poking around on ancestry.com back in 2001, and ordering my maternal grandfather's Social Security application ($7 at the time; the price has since quadrupled). From that I learned my grandfather's mother's name.
I didn't begin serious research until about 2006, and then it was off and on until 2010, when it stayed on.
For me, researching and compiling family history is really about finding a sense of heritage and roots, and a personal connection to history. Today, people seem to be increasingly... well, rootless. Many young people could care less about history or where/who they come from, which is sad.
My ancestry via my maternal grandmother all goes back to Massachusetts and New Hampshire Puritans, who fled England to escape religious persecution (only to then persecute those who disagreed with their religion, but that's another matter). Many of my ancestors were involved in the Salem Witch Trials-- as victims, accusers, constables, and witnesses. To know that I have these deep roots, and that I come from brave, hardy people, has given me confidence.
Genealogy research also brings history to life. It's one thing to read about the Civil War, but when you discover that your 3x great-uncle spent five months as a POW at Andersonville, it becomes three-dimensional and real.
So how and why did you start doing genealogy?