Genealogy Wise

The Genealogy & Family History Social Network

Genealogy is what the academicians call a "multi-discipline" pursuit. That means you use multiple skill sets and wide-ranging knowledge toward an end result. Other buzz words that apply to genealogy are the macro- and micro-. Through the micro- or narrow scope, we connect the family member "dots" of personal dates, places, and events; the macro- scope gives us perspective of how the specific fits in to the general sense of history.

You can hardly escape this "new" sense of what is called cluster genealogy. We are learning to see the bigger picture of history unfolding through the experiences of our ancestors and relatives. What this has to do with treasure finding is the sometimes inexpressable joy of finding a new date, place, or experience for one or more of our family. Each added nugget of data helps fill in the blanks. And the narrative, we must keep in mind, includes us. Whatever our relatives and ancestors did or didn't do reflects back to ourselves. We are -- to use a metaphor -- the pot of gold at the end of the arching rainbow of family history.

As we pursue, sometimes we find another bit of the colorful spectrum of our past. Lately, one of the tremendous tools researchers find are the official pension records for this or that ancestor who served in the military. Ancestry.com, Footnote.com, NARA, state and other archives provide online sources to search for these pension records that often are filled with personal details we would otherwise not know about. Sometimes, too, these records contain copies of original documents such as marriage certificates (proving the spouse's connection to the pensioner) such as the example below for my Harmon-Fowler family branch.


This document not only is a treasure but a specific correction tool. For one thing, many other family trees state that Felix Harmon, the groom, noted on the certificate married a "Matilda Crisler" not a Matilda Fowler as documented. For another, the exact date (as opposed to a possibly mis-written transcription) is included.

Pension documents -- sometimes tediously! -- recount verified information. In the same pension files for Felix Harmon was a copy of a hand written note from his commanding officer detailing his exact wound and where it occurred. For a genealogist, such facts are "pure gold" and, indeed, are a treasure.

Social networks and detailing websites -- including the excellent Find-A-Grave -- can connect us to distant cousins we may not have known existed. Such was the case with my Harmon line. Through adding information to an already existing memorial, I was put in contact with a 4th cousin Harmon who had a motherlode of old family documents, including the family registration pages of an old family bible. By contacting this cousin, he put me in touch with another cousin -- who is 90 + years old and uses email -- who is providing an even greater motherlode of family history from his memory and experiences.

The intent here, in this blog, is to encourage genealogists to search the resources for treasures as well as to encourage "inter-action" vs. "hoarding". Register at social sites and websites like Find-A-Grave, leave memorials and contact the original poster of the information -- you may find distant cousins you had no idea existed. Share your treasures with them and they will, likely, return the favors. Genealogy is best when shared and there are enough treasures to go around.

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Comment by Katie Heitert Wilkinson on August 19, 2010 at 2:54pm
William ..... I thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog entry .....perhaps because it echoes my own feelings about the work to which we've all committed ourselves. Another reason, though, is the joy and enthusiasm that you've communicated. So much of the research we do is cognitive, but the emotional rewards each of us receives when we discover the "treasure[s]," are worth more than I can describe.

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