Friday, June 10, 2016
Conference-going tends to slice right through the blogging sequence. Before leaving for the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree earlier this month, I had been working on my project to trace all lines descending from my matrilineal roots. Granted, routine efforts and statistical reviews don't generate much reader enthusiasm, so although I've been working hard on that task, I've said little about it. Such is the essence of grunt work, genealogical and otherwise.
Now that I'm back from the conference, it would seem the world is wide open before us, as far as new topics to discuss. There's only one catch: I have to find a story worth loving before I can pass it along for your consideration. The problem: I'm still looking for another story to catch our attention. I know those stories are in there, hiding within the lines of that family history. Sometimes, it takes some digging to unearth the details.
In the meantime, I've had a few bright shinies to catch my eye. Whether these are instances to develop further, I don't know. But it certainly is encouraging to hear from readers who turn out to know—or know about—some of these ancestors I've been writing about.
Just yesterday, I received notification of two comments which showed up on old posts. Taking a look, I realized the writer was someone related to the other side of my maternal grandfather's line. While the writer and I are not directly related, we both are wondering whatever happened to a mutual cousin. While I still can't find any answers to that question—and she couldn't, either—perhaps working together, we can uncover some information.
Family history blogging is like that. It's "cousin bait," as some people dub it. Write something about a family member, post it on your blog, sit back and wait. Someday, someone will Google that family member's name and the search engine will include your blog post in the results. That someone may click through, read the post, and discover you are a distant cousin worth contacting—and, hopefully, comparing notes with on mutual ancestors.
This year, I've benefited from a couple other contacts, all thanks to that Google-plus-blog-post combo. One was an email from a direct descendant of my maternal grandmother's aunt, who just happened to have a recording of this ancestor sharing stories from her family's past. She sent me a copy, and I got to hear those stories, too, in the woman's own voice. Such a treat.
The other contact was a bit different. Though not from a relative, per se, it was a note from a relative of someone I had written about: the Pembina County, North Dakota, constable known as Marshall Jackson. Along with sharing some of the rest of the story about this man who, later as immigration officer in Winnipeg was shot in the line of duty, this correspondent shared a photograph of the family. I have been waiting to tell you more about this contact—and to share the photograph—until I receive permission to do so from this family member, but unfortunately I haven't had a response to my most recent email.
Still, making such connections shows the unexpected benefits of writing our stories and sharing them online. It isn't until we mention the projects we are working on that we begin to make connections with those who are not only able, but willing, to share their side of the story. Those unexpected strands of the story eventually get woven into the bigger picture, enabling us to gain a fuller understanding of what actually did happen in our ancestors' lives.