As I embark on my tenth year as a professional genealogist, I am taking stock of my business and my personal ambitions. It is easy to want it all. The trick is to define what “all” is for me.
Over the last decade, I have had some great experiences including:
- Using examples and case studies from my own family research in presentations (one of my goals)
- Sharing finds from research far and wide (check out my events page to see where I will be speaking in 2024)
- Continuing my genealogical education at institutes (SLIG, GRIP & IGHR)
- Honing my skills and interests
- Revamping my website to better represent me
It has taken me a while to determine my “niche” in the genealogical world. Figuring out what I am interested in and how to share that has come to fruition. I call it The Family Business. I have come to realize that whether our ancestors owned a general store, were congressmen, brewers or farmers – all had relationships with businesses. They had to go to town for provisions, comradeship and essentials. Those relationships often are an underutilized wellspring of information. I find them fascinating and a lot of fun to research. I hope you will enjoy discovering them with me.
The penultimate goal, however, is sharing our family history with our family. My parents always are interested in hearing about new ancestral discoveries and sometimes I talk them into coming along for the ride. In 2021, I convinced them to help with me some courthouse research. The relevant indexes were online so I had done the homework, then we just had to go get the actual documents. It was so disappointing to be led into a room with all the record books and shown computers where “all” the information had been copied. I say copied not digitized because the scans were horrible quality, the computers and printer from the dark ages. We were not allowed to touch the books. Although I did look longingly at them! While I understand the need to preserve our shared history, it seemed at best unfortunate to not use what was literally in front of us. The best option was to take photos of the computer screens and edit the pictures to improve the readability of the text. One of the indexes did not match up with the recorded book. I informed the staff, but they were unmoved. At least we got the information but to this day I haven’t gotten through all of it because it is so challenging to read and transcribe. I hope that county in Missouri (I won’t name it) will try to improve their system. If they don’t and something happens to the originals, the records will be lost to history. Every genealogist and family historian has a similar story – an archive they weren’t allow to use, were told it didn’t exist when it did, or simply closed its doors to outside researchers.
Fast forward to August 2023. My parents suggested they would like to research the farms on which they were raised. I think they steeled themselves for a “research slog” through the courthouse. This time we did our collective homework including getting relevant historic and current plat maps, accessing online indexes on FamilySearch.org, and confirming the Recorder Office hours and whether we needed appointments for the two courthouses we planned to visit. We still were unprepared for what we discovered.
First, we were greeted by the nicest, most helpful recorder I have ever encountered. She showed us to the records room, explained the organization of the books and where we could make copies. Given my previous experiences, I was a little taken aback. I stammered, “so we do that – take the books from the shelves, find our pages and copy them?” “Yes,” she responded, “then you put them back where you found them,” and left us to our task. What a room. What a day. What amazing finds!
As everyone who has done courthouse research knows, you start slowly and after lunch realize you only have a few hours left and feverishly try to speed up the pace. But deed books will not be rushed. We had a great, but exhausting day and tried to create our priority list for day two. We only had until noon before we had to move on so we needed to be efficient.
We succeeded in finding many of the records we sought, and left with a list of hundreds more! I should explain that my mother’s line is of immigrant Germans, many of whom settled in Morgan County, Missouri. While not all of them stayed local, many did for generations and thus, there are a LOT of relatives’ records to discover. We also found a few new details across the line in Moniteau County, where Dad grew up.
Mom and Dad had such a good experience they went back one more time. We have hundreds of deeds to organize and analyze. And we are doing that together too. That is the real definition of successful genealogy to me. I not only got to research my family and use it to teach others, but I got to do research WITH my parents and we couldn’t have had more fun. There was even a little pizza and beer in there thanks to the Bee’s Knees Brewing Company in Versailles, MO. We highly recommend the delicious beer, pizza, and homemade root beer!
In this new year my wish for you is a year filled with great stories of research finds, cherished old friends, and ancestors who open a small window in your brick wall. Watch this blog for tales of my ancestors and their Family Business. Have a blessed 2024.