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.