Thursday, April 8, 2010

Networks

The past couple of days I've traded researching family for researching resources. General housekeeping such as downloading and printing blank census forms, request forms for military and vital records, updating correspondence records and research calendars, and clearing my family junk file. The latter is the most time consuming, least interesting, but most important.

Sometimes when I get a lead from a source not directly related to my parents, I'll throw it in a general research folder. I've learned to attach a post-it note to the item to remind myself where it originated and why I thought it important at the time. For example, the last time I visited the Fayetteville Library's genealogy archives, I found a book entitled "Missouri Pioneers, County and Genealogical Records," compiled and published by Nadine Hodges in August 1973. My maternal ggg-grandfather, Andre Roy is listed as receiving a land claim from Francois Duquette (lower fields St. C-St C.)in December 1808. I've not matched that to the water course and district maps or atlas to determine the location of that land and so before it goes in the indivual's folder, it waits in paper purgatory until I turn my attention back to the Roy family.

In the "Patrons of Ray Co. Atlas of 1877," I found all sorts of relatives: JF Pigg, J Clevenger, R Pigg, JA Potter, LF Elliott, AJ Riffe, HP Settle, most of whom are related by marriage, but who will be useful network resorces when I begin to sort out the tale of a particular ancestor's history.

There's a death certificate for Charles Thomas Dougan who I do not believe is related to me, but one of my distant cousins does and so Charles waits to be validated. From www.findagrave.com, I printed images from all Hansons in Conneticut from 1900 to 1960 and found a Nels O. Hanson in New Haven buried in the Beaverdale Memorial Park. That's where Ellen is buried and so perhaps another clue.

Oftentimes, I'll print out a copy of a civil war service record or a passport application for someone who isn't a relative just to understand the information available on these forms to help me be more creative in my search alogrithms.

And then there's the internet. I've spent days compiling lists of sources from Cindi's List to the National Archives, genealogy centers and libraries, and my all-time favorite: Google Books. I probably have downloaded a half-terabyte of out-of-print books not just for the source material, but for the network of individuals that surround my ancestor; who they worked with, their community, their dress and way of life.

Yesterday, I hit the motherlode. The Family History Center in Rogers is allowing me to volunteer to help patrons in the library with their research. Each patron has a story and is hungry to share those stories as they search for their ancestors. Not only am I excited about having access to the records on microfilm and the guidance from the library staff, the network of stories the patrons share are helping to fill in the gaps from my own research: a couple who lived through the dust storms of the 1930s; another who ran a radio station in Utah with connections who might help me find copies of my grandfather's manuscripts.

The beauty of networks is in the interaction. One piece of information is helpful to another researcher; their stories help put my research into perspective. I've only just started reading through the material for Family History Center, I have a new issue of Discoving Family History teasing me from the corner of my desk and already its getting late. Walt just dropped off a hot cup of tea, smiling. I'm going to be here awhile.

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