'Tis the season for giving gifts, but no, that "SKS" is not an awkward way to abbreviate Santa Claus. However, over the past few weeks, I have been gifted with some genealogical helps from Some Kind Soul which have helped advance my research goals.
A while back, I had opened the messaging system used by Ancestry.com subscribers to connect with fellow researchers, and realized someone had actually sent me a message. It was a transcription of an obituary for a resident of the county where my mother-in-law grew up. Being a rural, isolated location, it had been home to early settlers of the place whose extended families, over the generations, have intermarried with the several other family lines in the area.
Now, chances are that almost any obituary for a long-standing family from that area will turn out to represent some sort of distant cousin—and, because I research all collateral lines for DNA match purposes, I want to document all these connections, no matter how intertwined they may become. In my mother-in-law's case, it is not quite what researchers formally label endogamy—however, it is definitely a form of pedigree collapse—so I like to call it "endogamy lite."
Not long after that first thoughtful gift of the unbidden obituary, another arrived in my in-box. And then another. With each subsequent gift, I made sure to add the information gleaned from the article into my mother-in-law's family tree.
In these past two weeks, when I've been wrapping up the photograph-inspired search for the names in Marilyn Sowle Bean's pedigree chart, I haven't been working much on my own research goals. I had expected my biweekly count to drop to near-zero on my own trees, but with this unexpected gift from that genealogical benefactor, I have managed to make some research progress on the trees I'm supposed to be tending. My in-laws' tree gained a modest—but much appreciated—sixty nine confirmed names, to bring that tree's total to 24,453.
As for my own tree, I again received a prompt—though this time, it was thanks to some old communications with a fellow family researcher who has been comparing notes and sharing discoveries with me for more than a decade. Updating my tree from leads in our correspondence—not to mention the continuation of my desperate attempt at working on this month's research goal—I've added sixty five new names to my own tree, as well. That brings my parents' tree tally to 27,040.
We all have some information which, shared, could be of benefit to a fellow researcher. I haven't forgotten a recent conversation with a fellow genealogical society member, a woman who realized that her extensive family photo collection could be shared with no loss to her own possessions if she simply scanned each picture to digitize it. In some ways, we can have our genealogical cake and eat it, too.
The month of December is calling my name to go and do likewise.Though I have very few family photographs which I can share, I certainly have Marilyn's collection—and hope to pass it on. Then, too, there are photographs of headstones, taken the old-school way with film; they, too, can be digitized and posted to Find A Grave where no other memorial has yet been created.
In fact, there are many ways we can all try genealogically giving back during this season of sharing. The only experience better than receiving an unexpected gift from Some Kind Soul is to turn into one and pass a gift on to someone else.