While online networking has its many positive points for family history researchers—as we’ve seen discussed in the past few days—most people considering these benefits are looking prospectively rather than retrospectively. I find that, by using online resources as a form of documentation of our work, we can also leave a long tail of sorts—one that will serve as historic place marker so others in the future may find us through our digital tracks.
Of course, I take that concept with a caveat: our online footprints, and all the ways we leave the digital imprints of our research efforts, are delineated by the permanence of the servers who host our electronic activities. I discussed that last year in reviewing an article I found on the mission to archive the contents of the now-defunct GeoCities. While we may think—and act as if—computing monoliths such as Google will never fade from the scene, permanence itself, alas, is never guaranteed.
And yet, we continue to leave our tracks in the digital sand, hoping someone, somehow, will connect with us.
Take these pieces of ephemera I struggle to make sense of—these items found among the personal papers of my husband’s grandmother. Agnes Tully Stevens, a through-and-through American descendant of Irish grandparents all around, saved all the important papers. She carefully preserved letters home from the war front, written by her son in the Navy on the Pacific Front. She kept news clippings of people whose connections I can reconstruct—and some of acquaintances whom I cannot fathom despite my best efforts.
Though I don’t know who some of these people are from those long-gone generations, I still don’t hesitate in the least to post their information online. Why? I hope these transcriptions will show up in the search results of some genealogy researcher who is hoping to find a more complete picture of who his or her ancestor really is.
So when I come to scraps of paper from over one hundred years ago—lists of graduating classes of 1895, for instance—I transcribe them with all the hope and anticipation of a child waking up to the possibilities of a Christmas morn. I hope that Google search for the name that was someone’s ancestor brings researchers to a site like this where they can leave having found just a little bit more of their family’s personal history.
So for the next couple days, please indulge me as I list some Chicago names from another century—people who were not famous, not sought for anything in particular, except for the fact that they had a son…or a daughter…who had a son…or a daughter…who had, eventually, a child who grew to seek out the lives that went on before.
And if you are one of those seekers, please do stop by and let me know. I love to hear other people’s stories!
Closing exercises of
St. Anne’s School,
Wednesday and Friday,
June 26 and 28, 1895,
St. Anne’s School Hall
Wentworth Ave and 55th St.
At 7:30 P. M.