In the spirit of gratitude as we celebrate Thanksgiving, I’ve found Even More Things I’m thankful for on my genealogical quest:
1. Portable Scanners – My portable scanner of choice is the Flip-Pal, and I’m thankful there are devices such as these that make it easy to copy photographs and documents. Now if I could only get one of my second cousins to let me see that box of photographs with my Flip-Pal in hand…
2. Passenger Lists – After all these years of researching, I still consider passenger arrival records to be one of the most amazing resources we have when it comes to researching immigrant ancestors. They have it all:
drama – What happened to the passenger whose name is crossed out?
comedy – Some of the spelling errors are quite humorous!
suspense – Oh, no, they’re being held for special inquiry!
mystery – Did the guy writing this speak English? Because it looks like Greek to me.
adventure – The simple facts recorded so long ago help us envision the lives of our ancestors; they were more than just dates and names but people who dared to make a life-changing journey.
3. Geneteka – I honestly never thought I’d be able to access any foreign records online – for free! This year I discovered Geneteka, one of several Polish sites that have birth, marriage, and death records online. Earlier this year I found the marriage record of my great-great grandparents that took place in 1863 in the city of Warsaw. What used to take months of letter writing and payments was accomplished in minutes for free.
4. Napoleon – Why is a dictator listed among the genealogical things I’m thankful for? Well, I may not be a fan of Napoleon’s tactics or his politics – or how they affected my ancestors’ countries – but when it comes to genealogical records in many countries, genealogists have to thank Napoleon. He instituted what came to be called the Napoleonic Code that required vital records to be kept. Specifically, the records were in the country’s local language in a paragraph format. The details these paragraphs provide are amazing and offer so much more than some names and dates entered in a registry.
5. Google – Google is still the go-to search engine when it comes to basic searching for information on people, places, or things. But Google is so much more than “just” a search engine because of all their other products. I use Gmail to communicate with cousins (and everyone else!), Reader to read all the genealogy blogs, Documents to collaborate with other researchers, Earth and Maps to see where my ancestors lived, and Books to find obscure records. With the exception of Blogger (I’m a WordPress fan, obviously), I’m hooked on Google’s tools.
6. SS-5 Forms (While They Lasted) – One of the best genealogical resources I’ve used has been my ancestors’ applications for Social Security, otherwise known as the SS-5 Form. Sadly, the SSA no longer wants to provide full access to the form unless the person was born over 100 years ago. Before this recent restriction, what an amazing treasure this form has been – how many other documents give you something in the person’s own hand that lists their parents’ names – and possibly the town of birth?
7. Autographs – I love finding genealogical records that contain the signatures of my ancestors – their autographs! What is more personal than writing your own name? Seeing theirs gives me a very small personal sense of who they were. I have my grandparents’ and almost all of my great-grandparents’ signatures from items such as marriage records, social security applications, and naturalization papers. For most of my “older” records, most of my ancestors were recorded as illiterate and unable to sign for themselves, but I was pleased to find that my great-great grandfather Stanisław Piątkowski signed his own name to his marriage record in 1863 and his children’s birth records.
8. Meeting cousins through this blog – I’ve gotten to meet, both virtually and in person, several cousins. Amazingly, I’ve found cousins from each of my grandparents’ lines. In some cases, I found them; in others, they found me all because I blogged about our common ancestor. Now we’re email pals and Facebook friends and I’m so happy to know them all. Not all of my cousins are on Facebook, but among my FB friends I have 1 first cousin, 6 second cousins, 2 third cousins, 3 fourth cousins, 2 of my parents’ first cousins, 3 of my parents’ second cousins, my grandfather’s first cousin, and 3 spouses of my cousins!
9. Photos from Cousins – As I said above, I’ve come in contact with many cousins since I’ve started this blog. I’ve tried to get photographs from every one of them. One or two have actually sent me some! One, the 82-year-old first cousin of my maternal grandfather, sent me some never-before-seen photos of my grandparents (on the left – thanks, Ed!) and my grandfather’s brothers.
10. Catholic Family History – I’m very thankful for the faith that has been passed down through my family because it has enriched my life. This year I am also very thankful that I found several other genealogy bloggers that share my Roman Catholic faith, and together we began a new blog devoted to celebrating our Catholic family history – The Catholic Gene.
~ Happy Thanksgiving! ~
My past Thanksgiving lists (shown in brief, click on the link to read the entire post):
Things I’m Thankful for on My Genealogical Quest – 11/23/2008
- The Library
- National Archives and Records Administration
- The LDS
- Catholic Priests
- Rootsweb mailing lists
- Steve Morse
- Helpful strangers
- The genea-blogging community
- My ancestors
- My nieces and nephews
- Digital cameras
- Genealogical Societies
- Genealogy Conferences
- Genealogy Blogs
- The COG
- Genea-friends who help me research
- The Immigrants Came Here
- My parents