Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness … or not!


Like many of us, I should have started my research many years previously when those close to me were still alive. My father died in 1988 and by the late 1990s, when I embarked on this absorbing hobby, my mother could remember very little about my father’s family. Confusion as to whether grandad was Henry or Harry didn’t help and, according to my mother, grandma was Nettie, although she turned out to be Phoebe!

There were no living relatives on my father’s side of the family that we were in contact with, apart from a few distant second cousins who had no interest whatsoever in family history! As a newbie to the hobby I was probably not as aware as I should have been on the importance of getting certificates and working back through each generation, instead I searched the internet for clues, grasping at anything I found.

On one of my searches I found an entry on a Rootsweb  mailing list from someone who was tracing the same family name and from his posting it appeared as if there might be a link. At about the same time I joined GenesReunited and could see that this person had uploaded a tree and there were some matching names. I sent a message and sat back hoping that this would give me the breakthrough I wanted.

My first stumbling block, grandad Harry, or was it Henry, and grandma Nettie, whose first name was Phoebe.                       

A reply was received almost immediately and the family connection confirmed – he knew exactly who I was, which surprised me somewhat! The contact turned out to be my third cousin, let’s call him G.

G had spent some time working in South America where he had apparently contracted some sort of tropical illness. His recovery was marred by side effects to the drugs he was given and as a result he spent a couple of years off work during which time he researched his family tree. In actual fact what he did was more of a one name study, ordering all birth, marriage and death certificates of the family name and then fitting the information together like a jigsaw.

I still have the first email he sent to me. G explained that he was more than happy to share all his research with me but was worried that it would destroy the thrill of the chase. Living in Spain I had to rely on the internet for my research, not having the luxury of being able to visit record offices or view films at a LDS  Family History Center, so I wasn’t really worried about chasing around for the next clue and was more than happy to have a little bit of help here and there! Besides I was relatively new to the hobby and didn’t realise that the chase to find each little piece of information would be so important to me.

G attached a word document with his findings – an incredibly detailed 72 page genealogy report of our 3x great grandfather. I was amazed at the content – exact birth, marriage and death dates, addresses, occupations, causes of death, census findings – all beautifully sourced.

I quickly scoured through the pages to see if there was any information on my father’s parents and was surprised to find that in fact my father was included in G’s research, as was my mother, my two older brothers and myself! Not only had he purchased the birth certificates of both my mother and father, together with their marriage certificate, but he had also purchased the birth certificates for my brothers and me. He knew more about my immediate family than I did! There were five different occupations listed for my father (I had two), five different addresses for my parents (my mother could only remember three!) as well as similar information for my aunts and uncles. I worked backed through the generations, confirming my own findings and adding extra information as I went.

At the time I was amazed and very grateful for such a lot of information, and don’t get me wrong, I am still grateful that G shared his very detailed research. But he was right, as I look back I can see that it did spoil the thrill of the chase for me. I missed out on the buzz that we get when we find the next piece to the jigsaw, although perhaps I should be thankful that I also missed out on the headaches which result from the many brickwalls we encounter along the way.

After a while I realised that research was more than just names and dates so I have been able to expand on G’s research a little, finding out quite a bit about our errant 2x great grandfather William, an officer in the Royal Navy, who found himself at the Old Bailey on more than one occasion. In fact at my first visit to the National Archives  in March I was able to handle the ledger which contained a transcription of one of his trials … but that is another story! G was unaware of William’s escapades so I have been able to share my research with him, a sort of pay back for his initial random act of genealogical kindness.

 Elaine ..Spain

© Elaine ..Spain 2010