Saturday, June 6, 2020
Sometimes, it seems like I write and write for years, then...nothing from any inquiring cousins. Somehow, I get so used to the silence that it actually startles me when I find a comment to a years-old post added overnight from a distant cousin. If genealogy blogging is really all about cousin bait, you'd think I wouldn't get so surprised.
Last week, I looked up to the upper right corner of my computer screen while taking a brief peek at Facebook. Full disclosure: I mostly abandoned my Facebook account about the time of the last presidential election season out of weariness over the continual divisive political harangue. I'm a person who believes in the value of opposing viewpoints, but I also believe in civility in discourse, and the Facebook crowd was just not delivering on that aspect of being "social"—so I stopped looking.
There was one thing that kept me coming back to check, though: our genealogical society had set up a closed group, and, well, when you're the president of the group, you kinda gotta take a look every once in a while.
So there I was, looking at my Facebook group when I saw, in the top right corner, that I had a message. That doesn't happen very often, and when it does, it is usually some form of spam, so I was about to ignore it, but thought better of it. What harm is there in just taking a quick look?
I'm glad I did. What I found was a group message from a mother and daughter who relate to my Broyles line—the family who once lived in the lovely home called Ashtabula in the western mountains of South Carolina. I cringed to think how long that message went unheeded by my inattention, but was relieved to discover it was there only about a week's time. Hopefully, we'll connect and pursue our shared heritage together.
That wasn't all. Quite literally on the heels of that discovery, another mother and daughter duo reached out to connect with me, both via comments to blog posts from years ago and, thankfully, also via an attempt at connecting via Facebook. This time, the common ancestor is from my maternal grandfather's family in Tennessee, sending me back to my family tree, where I haven't updated material on that side of the family for years. Hopefully, once again in following through with a connection to distant family—in this case, a second cousin and her daughter—we'll find ourselves exchanging information on details of the relatives we do know.
While there are so many social media outlets for connecting with other researchers, it seems that sharing has become more generic than specific to family lines. I do miss the camaraderie of the old genealogy forums where we could post inquiries specific to a family line, and then connect and collaborate with those cousins. Those have been some of my most helpful and productive research connections. The quick in-and-out of current Facebook groups doesn't seem to engender the same sort of long-term collaboration.
As all things evolve, though, perhaps we'll see a gradual improvement in how researchers connect with others researching the same roots. Who knows? Perhaps the current quarantine will inspire others to take more time delving into their online connections with more substantive results.
For now, I'll just be glad that a new "cousin season" is opening up for at least two lines of my family's history. It will be fun to compare notes and share what we know. At least in one case, I have a family Bible that someone might be interested in seeing—and I'm always happy to share.