Thursday, December 29, 2016

Reflections of 2016

The New Year is fast approaching and we will be soon writing 2017. This has been a good year for me. Here are some highlights for 2016. This year there have been several clients whose families came from the south. It is fascinating putting together their family history from the point of online records. Those families with African American backgrounds demonstrate the tenacity with which they moved forward after the Civil War. They were ambitious and strongly focused on providing for the advancement of their families. While many were farmers of some form or another, others were teachers or held other professional positions. As the pedigree charts filled in it became obvious that research beyond the Civil War would provide more challenges.

In the last few days working on another southern family from early immigrants in Pennsylvania and Virginia the Civil War brought other types of challenges. Almost all of the great grandparents on the pedigree chart were involved in the war. They fought for the Union and some sacrificed their lives in the process. Those who lived in West Virginia had many records confirming who they were linked to, while those from Virginia had more limited information. Then there are the listings on which often provide much more than the burial information. Digging around in the results would vary from time to time for the same person. The links on the right side often lead one on a treasure hunt for information for other people as well.

Knowing the localities where the people lived is wonderful as there are so many other resources based on those places. For the most part the people after the Civil War appear to settle down in one place for a couple of generations. When compiling the family history information for the families it became a process of printed family group charts, pedigree charts, documents when there were digital copies of the original, and other online information about the localities. Each family is different, but every one of them were surprised to learn their families were not always what they expected. In the process there is always a chance for error in linking people together. When I hear people exclaim that yes that is Aunt so and so, or whoever they see that they have known in their lives, it confirms the results.

Sharing what we know about our families and combining that with what we discover online is like piecing together a puzzle. When the puzzle becomes a complete picture then we have accomplished a wonderful project. Even when bad things happen in families, they need to know their history to focus on the good things. For the families I worked on this year it has been validating to help them come to know their ancestors. The final pieces may be in their own homes as they place pictures, stories, documents, letters, etc. into their family albums.

My final project of the year was working at the Watts' house in Scappoose, Oregon. The house is maintained by the Scappoose Historical Society. When I first toured the home in August I noticed that they had about twenty boxes of paper and misc. things in the basement. At that time we determined to sort through the boxes and organize the materials for use by family history researchers. This included purchasing my favorite sorting tubs, four large and four small. By October the materials were sorted. We received a grant for the project from which we bought notebooks, sheet protectors, paper and photo mounts. Currently we are processing the photographs and other graphics by families and locations. After that we will put the finishing touches on organizing the notebooks we have started.

During the winter break while the Christmas preparations and tours are happening I continue to work at home on some indexing projects. There are still some hidden treasures that I have yet to work with. What I thought would take just a short time of course now appears to be a year-long project. This has been a blessing for me as I come to know the community better and can contribute to the local society. I would encourage all genealogists to search out these opportunities in your local communities. It will bring many serendipity moments to all involved. Best wishes for a very happy and prosperous New Year!

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