Out of the blue last week, I got an email from a distant cousin. This was a cousin whom I only met online due to our DNA match at Ancestry.com. We had quickly figured out that his grandmother was the very woman known throughout the extended family as the clan's storyteller. Once we had determined just how we connect, it seemed communication dropped off—until this week's letter.
It seems this cousin inherited a stack of family photographs, which he was busily uploading to his family tree at Ancestry. I took a look and indeed, on his site there is now a wealth of pictures of distant cousins. Now I have faces to match up with the names which I've become familiar with over years of research.
The email this week? A request for help in labeling those photos. You know how it is: we all could be a bit better about passing along this information to unsuspecting younger family members. Several faces in this collection still had no names attached. Who were they?
The one glitch in this process was asking someone like me. This cousin in question links to the Florida branch of my maternal line. My problem is that I never even set foot in that state until only a few years ago. I, the one continually bemoaning my lack of family photographs, am ignorant on such a subject. But I did have an idea.
That idea was to pass along the emailed photos to another cousin whom I know still lives in Florida. She is the daughter of a diligent family historian, and even though her researching dad is no longer with us, she has a good idea of who was who in that family.
Sure enough, the photos prompted an avalanche of information. The more we talked, the more she remembered. And the more stories I learned. I guess the result on her end was a prompt to check into those stories even further. We spent an afternoon volleying emails back and forth with details as she recalled them, leading me to discover even more as I cross checked online and added information to my own tree.
The best discovery was when this cousin stumbled upon an online memorial for another family member, posted by a funeral home. The unexpected discovery was not only a transcription of an obituary, but an actual posting of a video, the kind made to be shown during the memorial service. That video included pictures from that relative's childhood. Whoever thought a funeral video would become a source of family photos for distant cousins?
As the one cousin shared names to attach to the other cousin's family photos, I relayed the notes back to the cousin who had made the first inquiry—kind of like a relay race, only for family history. Now, however that cousin first acquired those photos, they are posted online for all interested family members to share, complete with names to go along with those faces. Collaboration can increase productivity in so many ways—and make an enjoyable way to work together with family.