January 3, 2016 by auntkatefirmin
2015 was a great year for family history, though not all related to Aunt Kate’s side of the family. Here are some selected highlights from both sides of the family:
-Fabulous trip to London where I got to meet cousin Liz & her husband and explore with them.
-Discovery of a newspaper article with a passenger list giving the details of a voyage from New York through the Straits of Magellan to San Francisco – my great-grandfather and his cousin were passengers on this voyage. Not only have I answered “did he come overland or by sea?” I’ve got now got exact dates. I love the California Digital Newspaper Collection – and it’s free.
-Too many wonderful discoveries in Connecticut to detail. One happy surprise was at the Connecticut Historical Society where the scrapbooks and journals of the sister of the great-grandfather who sailed to California in 1867 are held. I had done my research ahead of time and knew the items were there, but the catalog description had not led me to expect much outside of newspaper clippings and her musings on sermons she had attended and books she had read. It’s true that only a small part of her journal dealt with family matters, but it was well worth skimming all eleven volumes to get those gems.
-Meeting cousins in Ohio at a local history celebration added to the delights of the big Connecticut-Ohio reunion and research trip. Connecting with cousins really expanded the number of family photos, stories, and research documents for that branch of the family.
-A lesson learned and a wonderful discovery related to my husband’s family. Because I had a Queensland death certificate for a particular ancestor, I believed I knew the year the family arrived in Australia. Wrong. I knew the year they arrived in Queensland. It turns out they sailed into Sydney, New South Wales, four years earlier than I had been searching. Again it was a newspaper that gave me the answer. Using the newspaper collection from findmypast.com, I found that this ancestor had written a letter home shortly after his arrival which was printed in full in a UK newspaper.
Of course, there were also hours spent without much in terms of results – such is research. As the scientists say, even a negative result provides information. If you’re not finding answers, one possibility is that your search strategy needs revision. Here are a few things I that were reinforced for me this year (even if the ideas aren’t new).
*Connect with cousins. Expand your research power and effectiveness and make new friends.
*Don’t overlook the brothers and sisters of your ancestors as sources of information about the family.
*Newspapers are an easy to use source that is often free. If you were discouraged by the bad indexing of the early digital newspaper archives, take heart! The indexing, even for the very old papers, is now quite amazing (though not perfect).
*If you are fortunate enough to be able to travel to do research, it pays to use the online finding aids and catalogs of each institution to locate items of particular interest prior to arrival. Do connect with the staff and volunteers at each new location as they have local knowledge and expertise, but be prepared as well. In particular, don’t assume that all institutions will allow you to photograph archival books and materials; leave time in case the staff must photocopy these items for you or you must take notes by hand.
Happy genealogy trails to all for 2016!