This week’s topic for Open Thread Thursday is:
Do you remember being the recipient of “genealogy generosity” at some point in your family history journey? Was it when you first started out and someone guided you to the right resources and methodologies? Perhaps someone sent you photos and documents needed to break through a brick wall?
A networking of “helping each other out” seems to be a hallmark of the genealogy community, especially with new sites like Generous Genealogists and GenGathering appearing recently.
Let us know how the generosity of other genealogists has impacted your own research and if it has motivated you to “pay it forward” to others in the genealogy community. This is a great time to do a shout out to that person or organization and say, “Thank you!”
My Own Journey to Genealogy actually began when I was in college. There I began a brief period when I had interest in my family's genealogy. But as a young mother, with five children, life had a way of "getting in the way" and my personal pursuits were laid aside until I had time to actually begin doing something entirely for myself.
Back in 2001 my parents gave me a photocopy of a self-published book by Fanniel Bell Beane, William Bean of Monroe County, West Virginia and His Descendants. Fannie and her husband, James Beane, began working on this project more than twenty years prior to the printing of the book, which was a hand typed book that was placed in a spiral bound cardstock form. They did all of the research at a time when computers were as big as a house [well, as big as a large room!] and they had to visit close to 20 states as I recall. [James was a direct descendant of WIlliam Bean.]
From my first glance through the book, I was enraptured once again with pursuing my genealogy. [Those of you who perform genealogy know it's not an overstatement when I say I was "enraptured".] I finally knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
Just 4 years prior I was diagnosed with lung cancer. As you can see, the 6-month prognosis I was given proved to be but a stepping stone for me in pursuing other things. Remission occurred. However, it left me with a compromised immune system that would keep me down for a long time. I sank into a depression, believing I had a short life ahead of me.[ And because the immune problems, I was unable to work outside of the home.]
That is until I got a copy of the book by Fannie, and I found a new purpose for my life. My Mother took her copy of the book, literally, apart, and photocopied it for me. I took the pages, punched them and placed them in a notebook. That same time, my new husband introduced me to the personal computer. I had learned data punch entry in school. And had even learned how to use a word processor [looked a lot like an old desktop computer, and documents produced could be saved to a floppy disk.] But I had no experience with a computer.
So, he pieced together a computer, told me to learn it, and left me seated in front of it. Yes, literally.
I began playing with the word processor first. Then I hit the "Help" tab one day and found out that there was so much more I could do! When I asked for DH to help me... he said "Go to the library and get a book". He wanted me to really learn. And he knew that the more I learned on my own, the better I would be at it.
Before long... I stopped at a local Internet provider shop one day. I started a subscription, got a second phone line so I wouldn't compromise my regular line, and I guess you could say the rest is history!
I tell about DH and the computer, to get a point made about Fannie. With the new access to the Internet, and all that I learned regarding the computer that year, I began putting Fannie's information into a rough "tree" using Excel. [I was quite proud of my accomplishing this!] I hadn't yet at this point realized there was such a thing as a genealogy data program, or online sites such as Family Search or Ancestry.com.
But I wanted more. At that time, I discovered a search engine! [I actually learned of a search engine through a magazine article I was reading.] So, I typed in genealogy, and don't ya know Family Search was the first site that came up? There was some great helps there to assist me in starting my own search. And also a free download for a PAF program.
So, I downloaded the program... and literally haven't stopped since then! [Incidentally, that PAF program was my absolute favorite until 2006 when I got my first copy of FTM.]
So, I went back to Fannie's book, and began inputting all of the information I could from it. It took quite awhile. But when I was finished, I went back over the material. And I realized I was left with many, many, MANY questions yet. Questions I wanted answers to.
About that time, we had a family reunion. And for the first time, I was able to meet face to face with Fannie. I have to tell you, I was in awe of the woman!. She was elderly, but sharp as a tack, even though a stroke had left her in a wheelchair.
That first meeting, I bombarded her with questions. "Where did you find this information, or that?" I not only wanted more information, I wanted to know how or where the information came from. Even though at the time, I wasn't aware I should be writing all of this into the program as sources and citations!
Fannie was super indulgent. We exchanged mailing addresses, Fannie had an email address, but seldom ever used it, feeling better about writing a physical letter.
Over the next few years, Fannie encouraged me, while she shared her wisdom and data. When I didn't know where else to look, Fannie would give me new ideas: the county courthouse, the state archives, the state Blue Book, and the list went on and on and on. She encouraged me to look online first as data was just opening up and I might find what I was searching for there first, but always be prepared to dig into those musty old books and ledgers, and files for what I needed to find. She encouraged the use of LDS materials. [She even taught me how to use a microfilm reader, via a postal letter!]
At times, Fannie even mailed me her personal notebooks on individuals. I still have those, and treasure them!
Sadly, Fannie left this world in 2010. There's scarcely a moment when I am working on my family genealogy that I do not think of her. Each time I discover something new, I am momentarily set back as I automatically think, "I've got to tell Fannie I found this!", and thrown back into reality when I realize that I can't.
Somehow, I think Fannie knows when I find something and record it.
I have this visual image in my mind of Fannie sitting there with her husband, James, and old William and his wife, and their many children, and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, etc., and saying "Well at least one remembers us!"
Fannie isn't the only one who has helped me. As I said, my DH is the one who helped me to learn how to use a computer, and he encouraged me to pursue genealogy, not only for my own purposes, but professionally. And there was Paul Banet [now deceased], a second cousin, who gave me invaluable information on my mother's side of the family. And my second cousin, Ralph Faudree [also, now deceased], who did the same with my paternal grandmother's side of the family.
I do my very best to "pay it forward". I work with and mentor individuals within my family, praying that they will be driven to keep the family legacy and information "alive" long after I am not. I perform research for family members on their "other" family lines at no charge, while attempting to get them encouraged to begin looking for themselves as well. And I volunteer as the genealogist for our Clan MacBean. I also write a monthly newsletter for all of William's descendants, for which there is no charge, and which is now in its 11th year.
I hope that by volunteering my services, and mentoring others, I am in some small way, repaying those whose shoulders I have stood upon. And to whom I am ever grateful; for pursuit has given me meaning and purpose.