It’s the end of the year, and so it’s time to reflect upon what I’ve accomplished as for researching my family roots.
I started off the year with a family tree online at Ancestry.com. This tree was based on an older tree compiled by my brother Darryl in the late 1990s, and incorporated data from a cousin with whom he had shared information named Larry D. Watts. I had subscribed to Ancestry.com and expanded upon that tree by linking to census documents and other family trees.
Then I picked up Family Tree Maker 2010. I started a new tree document based on the online version, but decided to keep it saved locally and to minimize the amount of un-sourced information it contained. It quickly became my favorite pass-time to work on this tree.
In April, the National Guard sent me to a two-week course at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in North Little Rock, Arkansas. While the course itself had nothing to do with my family research, it provided me an opportunity to visit Searcy County, Arkansas, the area where previous generations of my Graham ancestors had lived. While photographing tombstones at Rambo Cemetery, I encountered a distant cousin named Gail Feese, and we exchanged information. (This meeting will be the subject of an article in 2011 because it was such a lucky incident.)
In June, I discovered Footnote.com. They were offering their entire Civil War collection for free during the month of June. I was able to find the service records for my great great grandfather William Alexander Watts, Jr. In 1863, he served with the Union Army, Company E, 2nd Arkansas Cavalry. (He will also be the subject of an article in 2011.)
Later in June a minor tragedy struck – my hard drive failed. By that time, the local version of my tree had become the most researched and sourced, and probably the most accurate, version of any family tree of my own. Thankfully, I had saved in my online inbox all of the e-mails I exchanged with Gail, and she had given me hard copies of her own research, so all was not lost. Also about this time I decided to let my Ancestry.com subscription lapse due to budgetary reasons.
A couple of months passed where I didn’t have much of a desire to pursue the research. I still had my old family tree online at Ancestry.com, but by this time I knew where it was lacking and how much work it would take to put it right. It had many duplicate entries for name variations, and accepted far too many un-sourced entries from other folks’ trees.
By October I was really missing working on the family tree. Who knew that sitting in front of a computer browsing scanned census document could be such a fulfilling hobby? I began thinking about how I would do it “right” when I inevitably started again. And I decided I wanted to blog about it.
On 15 October 2010 I launched this here journal, Graham Ancestry. This has turned out to be the greatest addition to my family research. First, in compiling an article on an ancestor, I will spend some time focusing only on that ancestor and, in every instance so far, I have found more documents and made more connections. Second, after posting my findings, I’ve been contacted by distant cousins who are also researching their family trees. In the three months since this journal launched, I’ve “met” three cousins, and their willingness to discuss our shared ancestry has added greatly to my research, and I hope that I have added to theirs. Third, having this journal drives me to do more research. Graham Ancestry has attracted a small audience and a couple of subscribers. Indeed, it has the most traffic of any online journal I’ve written. I don’t want to disappoint my audience!
Happy New Year!