Saturday, August 6, 2011

Serendipitous Results

When I started blogging last year I'd no idea who, if anyone, would be reading what I posted. Blogging was the first step in addressing the issue of what happens to Mom's stuff when Mom is off to greener pastures - be they eternal or the result of wanderlust. My goal was to share the stuff, most of which has been entirely private, with present and future family historians.

I'm blessed/cursed to be the family archivist. I have vital records, letters, diaries and photographs of my immigrant grandparents; boxes of papers and photo albums hauled up from my great-grandfather's house in 1996; crates of my grandmother's letters, photographs, research notes, grocery lists, bills, and newspaper clippings. There are a couple bags of research and photographs from my mother and aunt. This summer I've added digital copies of my husband's great-grandmother's papers to the mix. It's overwhelming. Who would be interested in this?

Well, it turns out people are!

GeneaBloggers LOVE reading each other's work. I suspect many of us have few people in our daily lives who are fascinated by the details of what we do. This was unexpected, but has been great fun.

Cousins have contacted me after reading the blog - especially on my father's side of the family. This has been a joy. It's the reason I began. Nothing beats connecting with family members interested in family history.

I've not had as much luck connecting with cousins in the more established American families I research, but I have been amazed by who has contacted me about those lines. I expected interest in the blog to be limited to family historians, but, with the power of Google, other researchers are finding posts of interest. I've had a wonderful exchange with a gentleman researching the history of his high school, a school where my great-uncle coached (more on that in a later post).

Three people researching house histories have emailed me. One man is researching a family home in the area where Thomas James Meredith's son settled. He kindly told me my Meredith posts have been helpful (hallelujah!!). Given how besotted I am with the family, this pleased me more than I can express. He's confirmed that the Thomas Meredith in Gloucester County is the son and generously offered to share some documents and photographs. I do love those Merediths!

Two people actually live in homes that belonged to great-grandparents. They found the blog by googling their addresses or the previous owners' (aka my g-grandfathers') names. Both are restoring the homes (to my delight) and have appreciated pictures and information about the houses and families that lived there. I've learned about present day adventures and had the chance to visit with the family living in my Sawyer family's homestead. I'd not been back since my last great-aunt died in 1996. It was beyond wonderful to see another family making the home their own. I even found an old painting of the house tucked in my archives (basement) and returned it to Tennessee. Far better it should hang there than gather dust and who knows what else in my "archives".

Not at all what I expected when I began this project, but these experiences have heartened and encouraged me to keep on digitizing and blogging. Now, back to work. Only a few thousand items left to scan or transcribe...

I mentioned that GeneaBloggers love reading one another's work. That this work also inspires and motivates us is not always so clear. I was catching up on back reading and saw once more a grand series of posts last month by Heather Wilkinson Rojo on her Nutfield Genealogy blog. She spent a week blogging about the joys of unexpected results in her Serendipity posts. I read them at the time and loved them. I have to think they inspired the theme and title of this post, though I was slow to recognize it. Belated hat tip to Heather!


  1. Quick comment, thanks for mentioning the addresses of your ancestors. Great idea, and I need to do that, google them and also put them in a blog. I also hope current owners have taken interest in their homes, such as restoring them. Good post, and I'm glad you've got a lot of work ahead.

  2. Great post and I can so identify! My great grandparents homes are now parking lots so no luck with that. But it is a good idea.

  3. I think (and hope!) that most bloggers have had similar experiences. It's so exciting when someone contacts a blogger because of a post. I think some of your contacts have been a little less common - those who live in your ancestors' homes, in particular - than many of us. What fun!

  4. Oh Susan, you have expressed the amazement and joy that many of us have found as genealogy bloggers. I hope we all continue to have this wonderful experience you described.

  5. Boy, does this post hit home with me. Yes, similar experiences - it really does teach us that it pays to share information, and that often means specific information such as old addresses. Besides cousins, I have corresponded with people who specialize in research in certain Civil War units, for example. Blogging really puts us in touch with interesting people. Talk about an extended education.

  6. Thanks for reminding me that every time I get discouraged with blogging something completely unexpected happens to keep me going. Greta is absolutely right, sometimes we have to share specifics. We need to exercise caution not paranoia.

  7. This post really hit home with me as well. We are in a similar situation.

    I was particularly struck by the idea of including specific addresses of ancestors homes. It simply hadn't occurred to me! How I would love to make contact with current owners of some of my ancestors former homes. Thank you!

  8. The genealogy blogging community was an unexpected surprise to me as well. Yesterday when Tina Lyons and I were talking a mile a minute during breaks at the KGS seminiar, a lady at our table joined in the conversation and it was apparent that she thought we were long time friends (or maybe that I was Tina's mother, but I digress). When we told her that we'd only actually met in person one other time and it was a year ago she was amazed. I think she's considering starting a blog.

  9. I agree--it's wonderful how genealogy blogs enable us to connect with others. I've reconnected with several cousins--and we solved several mysteries. It's amazing how different people have pieces of the puzzles (that in some cases we didn't even realize were puzzles until we started communicating with each other).

  10. I think we all start blogging because we need to get get our thoughts - about genealogy, our family, and other experiences - down in writing somewhere, and blogging gives us that outlet. But the cool thing about blogging, and entirely unexpected to me,is that it often validates your personal thoughts and expressions. Getting things down in writing is cool and all, but when other people read your thoughts and say,"Hey, I know exactly what you mean," it is a great feeling.

  11. I have been contacted by the descendant of the enlisting captain of my Confederate ancestors; a researcher conducting probes on behalf of a client and fellow Minor descendant; an unknown cousin who offered *ahem* alternative family stories. All of these unsolicited moments have produced such wonder, joy and amazement. How fortunate we are to have each other -- and our internet tools! :) (When I start pulling my hair over cataloging one. more. receipt. I will think of you and your boxes, then smile. I am NOT alone! :)

  12. Geneabloggers are like bonus additions to the family, I think.

    Always great to have someone comment when I am ranting about one of my brick walls...

    Great post.

  13. I know exactly what you mean (especially the blessed and cursed aspect as family archivist). I, too, wondered who the heck would be interested in my family's story, but just wanted a way to document the amazing historical documents I've discovered, deciphered, and translated. Just the tip of the iceburg so far, but as you've found, I've realized many others are interested -- and I thrill to their discoveries and shared thrills as well! Lovely post.


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