09 June 2013


Oscar Cat joins me in an
     Most of us have had an ARRRGGGHHHH moment during our family research. You, know, those moments that make you 1) at best, wonder what goes on in the minds of family members, or 2) at worst, make you want to turn to violence (in between are a whole range of emotions from bewilderment to hurt to anger).
     I've heard tales of ARRRGGGHHHH moments from fellow researchers--most having to do with relatives who hid family history information, records, or photos from the rest of the family.
     Thou shalt not covet, I know, but I sure do covet certain relatives' closets, in which, I imagine, lurks every birth record I have hunted for thirty years! Once, I finally obtained a baptismal certificate for which I had spent years hunting. I announced the great news to an aunt, who said, "Oh, I have that baptismal certificate, and I think it says something entirely different."
     What do these moments tell us as researchers? We have to be pests. Family history insects. We have to pester and pester and bug our family members until we are quite sure we cannot wring any more information out of them. Then we have to try anew with greater effort to find out more.
     Usually, after such an ARRRGGGHHHH moment, when I ask a relative why he or she did not inform me of the key information previously, the equally bewildered relative answers, "You never asked." Sometimes people truly forget a piece of family information, and do need to be asked very specifically about it. Other times, our relatives do not realize how much time and effort we family historians put into our work. They have no idea how important a record or fact may be to us. They may even assume that we know what they know!
     I recently discovered the surname of my great grandmother's sister. I have been researching this particular family, on and off,  since I was eight years old. I hit a brick wall decades ago with that family line.
     When I called my mother to share the great news, she said, "I knew that name. I wrote to her when I was a young girl."
     Then the kicker:
     "You wrote to her daughter when you were a girl, too."
     I suddenly realized my mother was correct. I did write to that cousin when I was young. I had forgotten the name entirely. Worse yet, I had not saved any of the letters.
     So I looked into a mirror at myself and yelled