The genealogy community is made up of a very giving bunch of people. We’ve seen that all along—even back during those days when researchers used to submit queries for publication in real newsletters and journals. You know, the ones we used to print on paper.
As the genealogy community migrates to more digital means of both research and communication, our altruistic tendencies have made that transition as well. We’ve seen peers on genealogical forums helping each other with questions as basic as where to access local records, or as complex as isolating which child belongs to which multiple-great grandmother—and fingering which last will and testament said so. I know I’ve benefited from that kind of help; I’m sure you have, also.
So it was quite rewarding to become part of that experience once again, the other day, when Kat shared what she had discovered about online resources in Detroit for Catholic cemeteries there. Of course, I had a heyday reveling in that discovery, myself.
But the story didn’t stop there. The next logical step was to share the good news in a meaningful, practical manner, and Iggy was just the one to do it. As a Find A Grave volunteer, he figured it would be helpful to others to create a memorial for the Barkleys in Detroit, these newly-found possible Flannery descendants—even though they are not part of his own family lines—and deftly added several entries on Find A Grave.
It is all like a big chain reaction: one person helps another, who in turn helps others. As others pass the details along, we collectively make more information available to a wider circle of researchers. Sometimes, we use the organizations and structures that are already there for the using—websites like Find a Grave and online forums like Rootsweb—and sometimes, we create our own ways and places to share the information.
No matter how we do it, we are participating in one aspect of genealogical research that creates such a powerful resource: we are giving back to the community as well as benefiting from it. We are passing along the discoveries that we found useful in the hopes that others will find them just as helpful in their own research.
In the process, we amplify what is available for genealogical pursuits. In many cases, the work is done by—or through—organization. Sometimes the work is contributed through concerted effort—like the War of 1812 pension records preservation work—and sometimes the work is done by members working together from one group, like a local genealogical society. Many times, though, it is the handiwork of individuals, contributing what they can to wikis or blogs or other means of online communication.
The strength of that will to give back is what fuels the genealogical community’s viable impetus. Sure, there has been a rise in large commercial entities, willing to provide the giant machine of digitization that has brought all of us great research resources—for a price. But there is still a place for that lone individual who is willing to realize: I have what you need. Here: I’m willing to share. Much as the field of astronomy has benefited from “citizen scientists,” the world of genealogy has come a long way, thanks to this interactive ability to respond to others in our online universe of researchers with that mutual quest for ancestors.