One of the best ways to add to your genealogy research is networking with other researchers who are working on the same family lines. This also seems to be one of the least utilized resources.
For some reason, many genealogists are reluctant, or simply too lazy, to contact others and ask for information. There are so many ways of doing this, and it is so rewarding. You will make contact with long-lost relatives, find new ones, make friends all over the world, and with e-mail, you have the ability of controlling the contact.
They won't be showing up on your doorstep unless you invite them. You don't have to join their family, just talk to them.
Over the years, I have met cousins I never knew about, or just strangers researching the same family. Some of these people I have met in person, some I have talked with on the phone and some I just e-mail from time to time.
We have exchanged stories, photos, copies of Bible records, and just personal chitchat about who we are and what our families are up to. This can lead to amazing discoveries about almost anything.
It can be as personal or as impersonal as you want it to be. The idea is to trade family data and help each other put the puzzle pieces together. I sometimes go several years without hearing from someone, then make contact and find that they have made a discovery that makes a huge difference in my research.
Sometimes I find something and pass it to them because I know it fits in their line, but not mine.
There are so many ways of finding these new friends. I can only mention a few in this column, but you can use your own imagination.
The most obvious is talking to the relatives you already know; find the oldest living relatives in the line, go to family reunions, ask about others in the family that are doing research.
You can contact the local library, history or genealogy society, and ask about anyone that knows your family line. I recently did this and found a distant cousin who happily gave a DNA sample, which has proved that we may have been researching the wrong name all these years. We are now working together on the problem.
In a small town, or with unusual names, I have even used the phone book. You would be amazed at the results I get. Look up the name and call someone at random. The worse that can happen is that they will hang up, but that has never happened.
Explain that you are doing family research on their surname and ask if they have anyone in the family that would have the family history. One lady immediately gave me the name and number of someone writing a book on our family.
On another call, the gentleman was so interested, he told me to call back the next day, and they would get out the old family Bible. The next night, they read me all the family history in their Bible. I recently sat at the kitchen table while the wife cooked dinner, and her husband called the neighbors, asking questions about my family. I don't even know the name of the old couple.
The Internet is a wonderful place to pick up fellow researchers, if you can find an e-mail address that still works, of course. There are so many sites where you can put your own queries, as well as find queries from others that may be of help.
Genealogists love to help each other and will often refer you to someone else if they can't help you or know someone that may have what you need.
RootsWeb.com has a wonderful message board, as does Ancestry.com. One of my personal favorite message boards is GenForum.com, where I can choose a board, which will cover the state, county, or family name.
So, I can go to my county, and search for the name "Knight" and see if anyone has placed any messages for that name. I can either add to the thread of messages, so that everyone on the board can read it, or I can answer someone directly.
Then I can do the reverse and go to the "Knight Family" message board. There, I can read all the messages, or do a search for my state, county, or a specific first name. Try it, and you may be surprised at who will turn up. You just might make a new friend today.
Almost anywhere you research, you are going to find names and addresses or phone numbers of someone else working on that same surname. You may be able to help each other, or you may not, but you will never know until you make contact.
Even if you can't connect at the moment, tomorrow, next month or five years from now, one of you may get a break that can help the other. I have had it happen more than once.
Researching alone is like working in a vacuum. Not receiving any outside help and not sharing your work with others will give you very little progress and even less satisfaction.
You must tithe; the more you give, the more you receive. When you plant a small seed everywhere you go, you will continue to reap the crop far into the future.
If you need any help, just send me a message; you will make a new friend, plant a seed, and maybe reap some reward.
Brenda K. Smith may be reached at BrendaKSmith@prodigy.net.
The Treasure Coast Genealogical Society meets every third Tuesday at the Fort Pierce Main Library on Melody Lane from 1:30-3:30 p.m. Volunteers are at the library every Tuesday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. to help with research.