Saturday, May 29, 2021

Because we Can


No matter how much we complain about the lack of adequate documentation in the family histories published in prior generations, we have to remember one thing. While those of our grandparents' generation—or those who went before them—who self-published their research may have lacked resources we've come to expect now, they operated within a much more restricted arena. We can, with online research capabilities and the proliferation of digitized documentation now, dance circles around the typewritten manuscripts our motivated and forward-thinking great-grandparents might have produced in their time about their family's story. We have come a long way in what we can achieve in genealogical research.

It is precisely because of such a turn of events that I don't mind encountering the lack of clarity on sources for the research assertions as I've run across in the Ijams D.A.R. files I mentioned yesterday and years ago in the case of Sarah Ijams' husband John Jackson's Patriot line.

We've all encountered such wrinkles in the resources used in the past to "verify" genealogical connections. And really, one hundred years ago or more, it would have taken a lot of fancy detective work to unearth some of the documents we now can conjure up in front of our own noses with the mere click of a mouse.

But when we find them—those assertions lacking solid documentation—what do we do next? Do we grumble about the help of that trailblazer and move on with our own research business? Or is there something we can do to make a difference for those of our fellow researchers who follow this same trail after us?

Lately, I've seen so many Find A Grave memorials, for instance, lacking photographs of headstones—the very hallmark of what Find A Grave has come to be known for. If we've found a memorial without the picture of the memorial—and we happen to have snapped a copy of that same headstone—why not become a volunteer for the day and upload the photograph to the website?

While I don't have any way to know what the national D.A.R. headquarters would say about providing records for those of our Patriot files which seem to be lacking the verification of current research standards, it certainly would be worth an attempt to provide documents, if we have them. Anything which could help round out the records already on file for such a Patriot would make the application process smoother for future prospective members.

When I think of how quickly we now can locate material—whether direct evidence, or circumstantial details which could help build a solid proof argument concerning direct line relationship—I realize how rapidly we could round out the collections started in prior generations. What those trailblazers of the past did was remarkable, considering the limited research tools they had at their disposal. Looking at what we can achieve now, though, it would be a small matter to be able to augment those reports assembled by researchers in prior generations.

Because we can, we are seeing local genealogical societies assemble—and, in some cases, preserve—record sets which may not be on the national radar, but which mean something to someone's family. Because we can, we are seeing volunteers look at unorganized fragments of disparate record sets and envision how they can be re-assembled into one, useful unit to benefit researchers. Because we can, we have multiple opportunities to share what otherwise might never be found by the very person who would most benefit from the discovery—through forums, through shared documents on genealogical websites, even through social media outlets for family historians.

Just because others can doesn't mean you are off the hook, however. If you have something to share about your family's history, I hope you will do so, too, in whatever way possible. Because, you know...we can.


  1. I think it would be a great idea if the DAR would allow well researched (with proof) supplemental materials to be added to their files.

    My mother always said that her grandmother had married a widower with three sons. I have seen this in every typewritten genealogy of this family. She had married in our state with good records, but moved to his farm in another state.

    The true story is that he was a widower, having married in yet a third state. Once you compare the wedding dates, the death date of the first wife, the wedding date of his second wife, the birthdates of all his children - all the actual records I have access to on the internet - all of the children are hers. There are no half brothers. Elements in the rest of the story lead me to see how this story evolved with whispers and hurt feelings since she left her local family behind, how much might have been misheard comments by others and the fact she died when my grandmother was a child and she came back to this state alone. I don't "blame" anyone for inaccuracies, but I wish I could share what I have found with my mother and grandmother.

    1. That's quite a thought, Miss Merry. With all the research tools at our fingertips, we are finding details and verifications that can tell the full tale, even though the ones who were directly impacted may never have known the rest of the story. In a way, that puts a responsibility on our shoulders to provide an accurate report, if there is anything we can do to make that happen where it counts.

  2. The reason there is no picture of the headstone? The find a grave person is entering data from a newspaper obit. My uncle's was entered before he was buried. Thing is obit said Calvary Cemetery..... there are probably 1,000's of Calvary Cemeteries in the USA. Recorder decided it was in the Calvary cemetery near her..... not the one 150 miles from her.

    1. I have heard stories like what you mentioned about your uncle, Susie Q. Frustrating. And there are other reasons for lack of photos, as well. I have had some, though, where I requested that a volunteer add the photo to the memorial, and someone local usually does follow through with that when asked.


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