Do you have ‘genealogy buddies’ that you exchange research with? Do you write letters, post on mailing lists or message boards or in any other way make connections with others researching your family tree? Do you belong to a local, regional or national genealogy society?
If your answer to any of these questions is ‘No’ then I encourage you to write those letters, messages and posts and to join a local organization and meet their members. It has been my experience that some of my best breakthroughs have not come from my own isolated research, but from the help of others.
When I started researching my family, I was dependent on the U.S. mail to connect me with other researchers. Several times a year, a new edition of Everton’s Genealogical Helper (searchable at MyHeritage) would arrive. I would sit and study that magazine looking for anyone researching any of my surnames. When found, I would send off a letter to see if we might connect. Occasionally, I would pay for my own ‘advertisement’ listing my surnames and locations. Either way, I waited anxiously for responses to those letters and advertisements.
When email entered the picture, mailing lists, such as those hosted by RootsWeb, became the ‘go-to’ resource for contacting other researchers. I could send my message to the list and wait to see if anyone would respond. Message boards on Genealogy.com and Ancestry.com entered the picture shortly after that and became a popular way to post queries seeking answers. Facebook groups seems to be replacing the message boards and mailing lists. Thankfully, Katherine Wilson maintains a list of these groups so that we can find them and connect with other genealogists.
The methods used to connect have changed over time, but the value of these connections hasn’t.
One of my first ‘genealogy buddies’ was Walter Salts of Warren County, Indiana. My Crawford family migrated from Warren County to Dodge City, Kansas. Thus, I had Crawford and Foster ties in Warren County. I would send Walter a question and he would send me back a packet of information that usually involved at least a few newspaper clippings.
I ‘met’ another genealogy buddy thru e-mail. Sandy Kuchenreuther was researching her Currey family in Oregon and Washington. I was researching my ancestor, Hiram Currey of Leavenworth and trying to prove that he was the grandson of Hiram M. Currey, treasurer of Ohio in 1819. Thus, I was trying to prove my way into Sandy’s family. Anytime we would find something, we would share it. I remember our emails back and forth over an obituary claiming her relative was buried in Oregon. We both tried to track down the burial location to no avail — until one of us realized that there was an Oregon, Missouri. Once we made that connection, it was simple to find the burial and lots more information on that branch of the family.
I will be spending tomorrow with several of my genealogy buddies at the Topeka Genealogical Society. Each month, TGS hosts a DNA and a Brick Wall study group. Not only can I learn from the presentations but I can learn from the conversations. It is these conversations that spur me on to look for new resources or new genealogy buddies.
My participation in these study groups provided the incentive to apply for a ‘Brick Wall’ Consultation at the recent TGS conference and to register for that conference. Needless to say, I was thrilled to have been selected for one of four ‘Brick Wall’ Consultations.
Since applying for this consultation, I have been reviewing my research, searching for more documents and evaluating my findings. From this process, I have a new theory that I might have SELLERS ancestry. During my consultation last Friday, I was encouraged to continue this review process and expand it. I was also encouraged to reach out to other researchers, make connections and collaborate.
On Friday evening, I started applying some of the suggestions from my consultation. As I was doing this, I kept thinking about my new SELLERS theory. Remembering that I had met a TGS member in the past who was a SELLERS descendant, I decided to try and find her research. When I found her son’s tree on Ancestry, I was amazed to see that their Sellers brick wall ancestor died in Warren County, Indiana – the same county my Crawford family migrated to Kansas from.
Since I knew that this Sellers descendant was attending the TGS Conference, I decided to visit with him on Saturday. Even though neither one of us can connect our research to the other’s, I learned something very valuable from him. He told me where the Walter Salts collection of papers is housed!
During the final session of the conference, Michael J. Hall reviewed several of the features of Family Search. One of those features was the Family Search Community, which I need to investigate further.
Based on the recommendations from my consultation with Michael J. Hall and my experiences this weekend, I am going to do more to CONNECT and COLLABORATE by
- Sending emails to local libraries, historical and genealogical societies to see if they have any letters, diaries or other sources to help me in my Crawford research
- Submitting queries to Ancestry Message boards and the FamilySearch Community Groups
- Contacting other researchers
- Maintaining current memberships in genealogical societies and possibly join other societies in the communities where I am researching
I’m looking forward to making new CONNECTIONS. Won’t you join me?