The Hidden Gems in User-Contributed Notes on Genealogy Websites
Ever felt that gnawing fear of missing a crucial detail in your ancestor's story? Read on to learn about something that could be the game-changer in your genealogical journey – those often-overlooked user-contributed notes on genealogy websites. There's a treasure trove of information waiting for you in those. Think of them as a helpful sticky note left for you by a teammate researcher!
Genealogy websites are full of information, and user-contributed notes often hold THE key to unlocking hidden gems. These notes are like whispers from the past, shared by fellow researchers who might have stumbled upon the same roadblocks you're facing.
What Are User-Contributed Notes?
Any notations or contributions made by users that may not be an official record can offer good info and clues to help. You may be surprised to see how many of these opportunities exist one you start looking.
Sometimes, it may be that a user uploaded a scan of handwritten notes or typed up a story and posted it. Check the profile page for your ancestor in online trees for these.
Another example that is often overlooked is small corrective notes on those online trees. For instance, Ancestry offers a way for users to correct the indexed names and info on census records. When a user corrects the spelling of your ancestor’s name, it may be that they’ve been researching that person and/or feel enough connection to that ancestor to make sure their name is correctly listed. That user has likely researched the ancestor beyond the surface-level name, date of birth, date of death, etc.
Don't forget to look at notes, edits, or virtual flowers left by people on memorial sites like FindAGrave. Online obituaries allow users to leave condolences and notes... could one of those contributors be someone who knows info about your ancestor or family?
When you discover those small notations, reach out to the contributor. Ask questions. Offer to exchange information.
Why Reach Out to the Note Authors?
They've Walked in Your Shoes: Ever felt like you've hit a brick wall in your research on this particular ancestor? The authors of that user-contributed note on your ancestor’s records know that frustration, too. They've been there, done that, and their insights could be the missing link you've been searching for.
Uncover Untold Stories: Genealogy isn't just about names and dates; it's about the stories that make your ancestors come alive. The authors of those notes might have stumbled upon family anecdotes, traditions, or even rare photographs that add color to your family narrative. Once, I reached out to someone who offered a corrected death date on a family tree. Turns out, he had an abundance of photos and family stories that I have never seen elsewhere!
Tap into a Wealth of Experience: These note authors are often seasoned researchers just trying to be helpful. Their experience and tips can help you navigate through the twists and turns of your family history, ensuring you don't miss any significant details.
How to Approach Note Authors:
Express Genuine Appreciation: Start your message by expressing gratitude for their contributions. Acknowledge the effort they've put into documenting their findings and how it has made a positive impact on your research. This will let them know immediately that you seek their help and that you are not challenging their info or expertise. Remember, tone is difficult to perceive in written word, so go out of the way to let them know that you want to learn from them.
Share Your Story: Briefly introduce yourself and share your genealogy journey. Mention the specific areas or ancestors you're struggling with and let them know why you believe their insights could be invaluable.
Ask Specific Questions: Be clear about what you're looking for. Whether it's details about a particular ancestor, a family tradition, or insights into a historical period, specific questions will guide the conversation and make it easier for the note author to assist you. If you ask to exchange info about the whole family, that sounds time-consuming to the receiver. But if you ask a specific question about one person, the chances that the researcher will respond are better.
In the vast landscape of genealogy research, connecting with the authors of user-contributed notes is like having a supportive community at your fingertips. Remember, each note represents a piece of someone else's journey, and by reaching out, you're not just uncovering your family's story – you're contributing to the collective tapestry of shared histories.
So, go ahead, take that leap of faith, and reach out to those note authors. Your ancestors might just be waiting for their stories to be rediscovered, and these unsung heroes could be the key to unveiling the rich tapestry of your family's past.