Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Get Yourself Out There!

For the last decade or so, I've been quietly going about my own genealogy business. I took over what my Grandma Edith had started, and then what my dad had added in, and have been slowly putting the pieces together for both their side of the family (Brittain) and my mom's side (Bartram). Sure, I'm a regular user of Ancestry.com, and make use of other online repositories such as Footnote.com, GenealogyBank and, of course, the various Google properties and other sites. But, it wasn't until the last couple of years that I've really started to branch out -- and REACH out -- via the Web.

It all started last year when I was desperately trying to prove my lineage to my 5th great grandfather, Nathaniel Brittain, who was a patriot in the American Revolution. I'd hunted high and low for documentation to prove the link between his son, Parks Brittain, and grandson, Milton Price Brittain, but to no avail. One day, I happened on a Google search result that led me to an Ancestry.com message board post from a woman looking for information on the same ancestor. She listed her email address in her post, so I thought, "What the heck, I'm going to send her a note!" Since then, Jennifer (of Climbing My Family Tree) and I have put our heads together to solve a couple of mysteries on our Brittain line and her blog inspired me to start my own. We've also become Facebook friends, and I have fun following her family (both ancestors and current) via the social network.

I truly believe that reaching out to the networks available to us on the Web is a great way to unearth info we're searching for as well as to meet like-minded folks (both relatives and new friends!).

Here are a few ways that you can reach out and touch someone from your own family tree:
  • Check out the message boards on the various genealogy websites, such as Ancestry.com, Geni.com and GenealogyWise. You don't necessarily have to be a member to search the boards, and you may come across a cousin who has answers for you, or might like to work with you to solve a mystery. I found one of my favorite new cousins all because of a Google search that led me to her message board post requesting information on what turned out to be our shared 3rd great grandfather. Jennifer and I were both able to help each other discover new information and documents that we hadn't found before, and she was instrumental in my successful attempt to join DAR. 
  • While you're reading the message boards, why don't you jump on in and post something yourself? Go ahead and ask a question that has been nagging you. Or, you might be able to answer a question for someone else (pay it forward). 
  • Read the genealogy blogs that interest you, and comment! Reach out to the authors that might have information for you, and ask questions. You never know who might be reading your comments and can help you remove another brick from your wall. 
  • Look for family-related pages on Facebook and join in the discussions. I've recently found one of my distant Veale cousins and look forward to comparing notes with him as we try to figure out where our Veale line originated. 
  • Have you checked out Twitter? It's amazing what you can learn in just 140 characters. There are a lot of people out there tweeting about their own research as well as other genealogy news and information. A good way to find general family history content on Twitter is by searching for "#genealogy". Of course, you can search for anything else you like on Twitter, too!
I think that the biggest genealogy lesson I've learned, other than persistence, is to not be shy when it comes to reaching out and talking to folks in the family history community. If I hadn't taken the initiative to talk to my fellow genealogists, several of whom have turned out to be cousins, I'd be doing myself (and anyone else interested in my family history) a big disservice. I hope you'll all join in the fun and get to know your fellow genealogists out here on the innerwebs. We'd love to hear from you!!


  1. You know what, Wendy, I'll your Grandma Edith is smiling down at you for so successfully continuing her ancestor searches. I'm proud of you, too.

  2. Thanks, Mom. It would have been even more fun to do all this with Grandma Edith. I'm glad you're enjoying it!