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Genealogy Speaker - [52 Weeks]

Article by matthewkmiller

I know this isn't what Scott is looking for as a Genealogy Speaker blog post but I still think it's close enough to the subject and something I think makes a good post. I don't have a favorite genealogy speaker. I've heard a few people speak about genealogy through online videos and streaming audio. I don't think I've come across anyone I don't like, so I'm taking this post in my own direction.

What genealogy speaker most inspired me? Me!

No, I'm not getting a big head. No, I'm not saying I'm that great a genealogist or speaker. I think I'm moderately "okay" in each.

The reason I say this is because of the reaction, feedback and education I receive from others. I spent a few years making at least weekly visits to my local Family History Library at the LDS Church. I had hit the motherlode of family history information and I was spending large amounts of time scanning microfilm, making new discoveries and discussing my finds and techniques with the staff and other regulars. Before long, I was asked for advice from the staff to help others. It didn't take a lot of my time or effort and besides, I enjoy talking about my hobby. Finally, after nearly three years, I self-published the family history book on my mother's father's father's ancestors. It was a huge accomplishment that I was proud of and happy to have completed.

Nearly a year after publishing, I received a call from the local family history center. I hadn't visited in a while because I had nothing to research. My name had come up in conversation and they asked me to speak at their next monthly staff meeting. I was happy to take on the challenge although I hadn't done this before.

I put together a PowerPoint presentation, starting with what we knew about my great-grandfather's family before the breakthrough occurred, explained how we found the nugget of information that led us to his ancestors in his hometown, a village with a current population of about 2000 people in southwestern Germany. I then went on to explain how I researched, documented and published the family tree information.

What I presented and what I learned from that presentation is that presenting your information to others will help you in future presentations and, more importantly, help you in your research. We had an old photograph that was passed down through the family. On the margin was scribbled "Panthers in Germany". Panther is the family name. No one knew who was in the photograph or where it was taken. Because I had exchanged emails with others who had attempted research on this branch of the family, a second cousin, who takes trips to this area of Germany every few years just because he enjoys the area, heard about my research. He called me and said he going to the area in a couple of weeks and wanted information so he would know what to look at and see if he could do any more research. I got him a copy of the photograph and gave him names of the family from the area. While there, he met the city manager, who is a distant cousin and found the actual house in the "Panthers in Germany" photograph and found out how the house and the house next door had passed down in the family until recent times. I used a lot of this information in the book.

Then nearly a year after publishing, I recieved an email from another distant cousin. She has had letters written in 1913 in old German script in her possession from her grandmother's papers. She didn't know who they were from, to, or what they said. She asked if I could translate them. She sent them to me because I was researching the family. If I had not shared my research, I would never have known these letters existed. I could make out a few words but wasn't making much progress so I asked my wife's aunt, who grew up in Germany to see if she could figure them out. It ends up the letters were from my great-grandfather's half-brother, still in the village. The heading of the letter even had the name of the village! Had we known about these letters sooner, we might have found the village sooner. The letter went on to discuss the family photo that was enclosed. The letter explained exactly who was in the "Panthers in Germany" postcard. It also gave us a snapshot of what was happening in the village in 1913.

Then, during the presentation, the photo of the boat my great-grandfather came to America on came on the screen. I had put this photo in at the last minute because I thought it would be a good example of how to track down ship information. A lady in the audience spoke up, "When did your great-grandfather come to America?" I explained that it was in 1872. She said, "That's not the boat." Not only was it not the boat, it wasn't even from the same era as my great-grandfather's voyage. To say I was embarrassed is an understatement. However, this allowed me to establish a discussion with this lady who happened to be a ship expert. Over the following few months, we met up and found a more accurate sketch of my great-grandfather's ship, along with an advertisement for the passenger ship line from the era of my great-grandfather's voyage. It made for a great update to put out a second edition of the book.

The moral of the story is share! Exchange emails with distant cousins. Speak to other genealogists. Make a presentation at a family reunion, your local family history center or local genealogy society. Show people what you've discovered and how you found it. You just never know what they might provide you in return.

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by matthewkmiller Profile | Research | Contact | Subscribe | Block this user
on 2012-11-21 10:06:38

matthewkmiller , from Omaha, Nebraska, has been a Family Tree Circles member since Jul 2012.

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