Monday, October 23, 2017

Day Twenty-Three: Lost in More Letters

Yes, I know I'm still stuck on the letter "F"—don't think those "more letters" I mentioned refers to my suddenly conquering the back half of the top drawer in my file cabinet. Today's reference to letters is different. This time, I've been wandering around the pages of an old file which contained multiple email exchanges with another researcher who shared a joint interest with me in the Flowers family of Pennsylvania and then Perry County, Ohio.

Reading that old email exchange—most of the letters I saved were from 1999—caused me to realize something: printing out those old notes resulted in not only preserving my friend's letters to me, but also copied her copies of my letters to her. Not only did we discuss the Flowers lines we were researching, but also exchanged news of the things that were currently happening in our own lives. It's as if I just re-discovered some pages from my own diary. 

After dispatching a folder so quickly yesterday in my Fall Cleanup, it reminded me of my preferred method of online genealogical searching. You see, almost all of the material in yesterday's folder was gleaned from surname mailing lists. Since I'm still stuck in the "F" folder in my file cabinet, you know that surname would be for Flowers.

Researching via those old online surname lists, circa 1999, wasn't the fastest way to connect with others researching the same surname. Often enough, I found better results by looking at the online lists based on geographic locations. It was far better to subscribe to a list for, say, Perry County, Ohio, and then look for any posts on the Flowers surname, than it would be to go straight to the list for Flowers. This way, I could better focus on people who were also researching the specific line of that surname.

Despite that logic—and the subsequent technique which I did apply through many of my early online research years—two of my best connections were made through an online group called the Flowers Family Genealogy Forum at the now read-only website, GenForum.

I met the first of these two Flowers researchers early in 1998, when she had posted a note requesting to connect with any others who were researching this surname in either Pennsylvania or Ohio. Of course, you know I was on that, right away. Before long, the two of us were comparing notes and emailing GEDCOMs to each other from our respective Family Tree Maker databases.

Somehow, out of that connection emerged a second Flowers researcher. Those first emails from her  would actually come from her husband's account at a university in Indiana—the return address information took up half a page when I printed out the note. (She subsequently signed up for her own Yahoo email account, which streamlined the process.)

Not many people had access to email back then, I guess, and not many of those were using it for genealogical purposes. Of those who were, I met the most wonderful people. Letters which started out inquiring about jointly-shared ancestors often blossomed into friendly conversations about multiple interests.

I couldn't help myself today, trying to clear out all these old genealogy files: I got lost in the contents. Bottom line was I couldn't bring myself to toss a single one of those notes. And that was for just one file. I suspect, since this woman's own name comes before the other friend's name, alphabetically, that tomorrow's file will contain this other friend's email exchanges. I'm sure tomorrow's task will be equally bogged down as I lose myself in remembering many of the things mentioned in those notes.

Researching family history for so many years has one down side: though the camaraderie of collaboration was enjoyable, eventually the inevitable would happen. I can recall losing some good genealogy friends over the years, mainly because so many of them were quite older than I. In the case of the woman whose letters I reread today, though, I estimated she was likely about my age.

That, of course, makes me wonder whether she is still researching her Flowers ancestors now—and whatever became of life's dreams for her, those many other events she shared in our letters. I'm tempted to try that old Yahoo! email address and see if we can still connect. With the many changes in online genealogical research since we first met, back in 1998, I'm sure we both know so much more now about our respective ancestors.

Above: "Pont Boieldieu in Rouen, Rainy Weather," 1896 oil on canvas by Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.  


  1. "I suspect, since this woman's own name comes before the other friend's name, alphabetically, that tomorrow's file will contain this other friend's email exchanges."

    This is a good sign that you are keeping on track. It would have been so easy to pull the other folder 'just to see' and get off track.

    I have been trying very hard to state my purpose and stick to it. I make much better progress that way. (not that I don't drift from time to time--haha)

    1. Interesting point, Gayle! If you were to diagram how my mind works, it would tend to be like a mind map--a central theme written in the middle of the page, with branches striking out every-which-way, gradually encumbered with twiggy thoughts as each idea evolved.

      I now find it a better discipline to stick with that dull, boring, old format we used to have to learn in school: outlining. It helps me keep on track--and better yet, get to what I have to say before I forget!

  2. Will you attempt to connect with them again:)

    1. I am tempted to, Far Side. Maybe when I get done with the cleanup project itself, I might try it...


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