20 May 2013

Motivation Monday--Free Access

Genealogy can be a very expensive hobby if you aren't thorough in your research. Sometimes the easiest access to records can simply be too expensive to pay for, depending on where you are in your walk of life.

Can't afford to pay for access to a website, or hard copies of records, or to travel to an ancestor's home state or home town? No worries! You don't have to spend money to have success. And a good place to look for genealogy access when you are strapped for cash is on your county library website.

Different libraries will pay for access to different databases. Check your county library's website for the different digital databases they offer. To show you what to look for, here is the Cecil County Public Library website:



To find out what your library has access to in terms of genealogy resources, many times you can simply ask the librarians the next time you visit your local library. They will be able to give you any sort of instructions you need in how to access the records either from their computers there, or from home on your own internet connection. 

In the state of Maryland, we have free access to HeritageQuest. As you can also see above, there are some records from Western Maryland that are also available. I don't really need those, so I've never explored them, but let's look at HeritageQuest.

Anyone with a Maryland library card can access HeritageQuest for free on any internet connection. All you have to have is your library card number, which you type into the box on this page. With that, you can access a really useful archive of census records. I haven't found many of the other repositories there to be useful yet, but everyone can use free census records!

So if you want to make sure you have access to free genealogical records, never throw away your old library cards! They could be your ticket to some amazing finds...

Like this one I had for Bryna Alexander Doyle and her daughter, Sarah. It was the only census record missing from the set for their family.

Bryna Alexander Doyle and Sarah Ann Doyle--1870 Grayson County, VA Census

You don't have to spend a lot of money to solve your family mysteries and find the answers to your questions. You simply have to know where to look.

14 May 2013

Cousins



Fun with inbreeding by John Green. Learn the differences between the many kinds of cousins, and commiserate with famous people who also have inbreeding in their family tree.

04 May 2013

Miracles

When I went into work yesterday, I expected it to be like every other day I have worked at the laundromat for the past 5 months. In fact, when my co-worker met me at the door and showed me the drop-off order that I needed to wash, dry, and fold, I wasn't really paying attention.

Until I saw the name on the ticket.

I recognized the name at once. It was the name of one of my father's half-sisters. My grandfather's daughter from his first marriage. Someone I have always wanted to talk to--but I have never met her personally. Just seen and heard her name a few rare times.

"She usually goes to the other laundromat," my co-worker told me. "Make sure you dry it well because last time she said they didn't smell clean."

"I think I'm related to her," I said, already gone to a different place altogether.

"Well, she wants a phone call when they're done," my co-worker instructed. She pulled her car around, loaded her sister's comforters up and left for the day.

I checked the washers with her laundry in them. The green displays read 13 minutes. I have never wanted a load of laundry to hurry up and finish so badly in all my life.

What was I going to say to her? How was I going to bring this up without sounding crazy? How do you just approach someone and say, "Hi, how are you? I just finished washing your laundry. Oh and by the way, I think we're related. Let's be friends."

I pull out my purple binder. I swear, ever since I bought the thing and started writing everything down, the flow of new information has been like a flood. I pull out my green pad of sticky notes and write down her name and phone number. I can't tell if I feel more like a detective or a stalker.

I swear, time moves more slowly when you have something important to do. I finally get her laundry folded and bagged, and it's the moment of truth. I pick up the work phone. I've died a thousand awkward deaths just in the time it takes for the dial tone to ring four times...

R-I-N-G...

Please let her be home...

R-I-N-G...

Hi is Mrs. T there? I'm with the laundromat and your clothes are ready to be picked up. Oh and this may seem like a weird question...

R-I-N-G...

Hello, Mrs. T? How are ya? This is Heather with the laundromat, and your laundry is ready for you. Also, I have a question. Is your father...

R-I-N-G...

"Hello?" a woman's voice answers.





Oh hang the laundry. Pun intended.

"Yes, it's OK if you pick it up next week, that's no problem," I say, that business taken care of at last. "Mrs. T, there's just one more thing, and I know it's going to seem like a strange question. Is your father..."

"Why yes, but how did you...?"

"Mrs. T, my name is Heather, and I think we're related."

And through a slow process of gradual recognition on her end and mine, she is able to guide herself to me by bringing up my father's name.

"Oh my gosh," she says. "I was there the night your father was killed..."

We both sit relishing in the pure serendipity of two strangers whose blood and circumstances have finally brought them together. I felt pure joy as I reached out for the first time to my father's family, and received a true spirit of kinship with someone living. I sensed in her a longing to know where our family comes from, and this I could easily give her. I needed someone to tell me the secrets that have gone unspoken for decades. She is in a unique position in which she not only knows the answers, but is willing to speak of them honestly and without embarrassment.

"You're old enough to know," she has decided.

I feel that a heavy confidence has been placed in me that I cannot fully appreciate now. Years of divine instruction on the healing power of forgiveness have been bringing me to this moment. I know it won't be easy for me to hear what she has to say. She tells me this herself.

But even if it hurts me, I have to know the truth.

We set a date to meet for the first time next Wednesday. She gives me her address. I will get the chance to meet with her, her sister, and their mother--my grandfather's first wife. There was something deliciously taboo about that last part. So many people and so much time have removed me from them because of what they know, who they are.

And just like that. Walls come down.

I hang up the phone and I'm in a dizzy state of euphoria. I'm frantically making plans for questions I need to ask, documents and charts I need to print, whether or not to bring my sister, what time I need to leave in case I need to put gas in the car.

In calmer moments, I simply thank God that He cares about our family even more than I do. I see His hands, careful and methodical, mending wounds generations wide--seen and unseen. Known and unknown. Those that have happened, and those yet to be.


Miracles are moments when "With love, from God" is written in invisible ink.

To me, that is a greater marvel--a more blessed miracle--than all the rest.