Sunday, November 6, 2022

Keeping in Touch


It's nice to connect again with family researchers we've met online in the past. Just this weekend, I received an email from someone whom I first met on account of our DNA match at The reason for the contact this weekend was apparently the wish to pass along something remembered about past generations of the family, gleaned from the kind of family conversations which are rarely documented, only passed along by oral tradition.

We need those sorts of remembrances. Strictly speaking, genealogy may be focused on the gathering of documents to verify the main points of life—when we were born, who we married, the names of our children—but that isn't truly the "stuff" of which life is made. It's the everyday occurrences, and even the upsets that jar us from daily routine, which compose the story of an ancestor's life.

After responding to the email and passing along a few family details I had discovered since we last chatted, I decided to take a look at my correspondent's tree on Ancestry. It turned out to be a treasure trove of family photographs. I gazed at faces I'd never before had the privilege of seeing. I marveled at just how much personality came through in those pictures, even a century after those ancestors were gone.

Just that brief moment of reconnecting reminded me that there is far more to family history than the documents we manage to locate which contain an ancestor's name and significant life dates. The only ones who really know the rest of an ancestor's life story will likely be their family members. Those are the ones we need to be chasing after—the living "documents" who can tell us the rest of the story. Our distant cousins who comprise our fellow family history researchers are a valuable network worth keeping in touch.

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