The following is another short story by Tom Fiske. He claims that it pays to get your family story out in front of folks – and proves just that with the following item.
Over and over again, I have found that it pays to get your story out there. In a magazine, on a blog or just as a question on a genealogy web site, it helps to state your interest where other people can see it.
In the September/October, 2006 issue of Everton’s Genealogical Helper my story was published for the first time. Actually, it was not my story, it was a friend’s story. But the result was the same.
About five years ago, I moved from Arcadia, CA to Fullerton, CA, some 30 miles away, so my wife and I could live near our son and his family. In all honesty, I had heart trouble and moved to Fullerton to die. I got a Ham radio license instead. But all was not lost– grandmother really enjoyed living near her grandchildren.
Soon after my wife and I moved, we joined a local church and I enlisted in family history writer’s group. One of the folks in that group had an old diary, written about one hundred fifty years ago. She laboriously translated a few days of it into English before each meeting and soon that diary became the center of attention at each meeting.
The writer of the diary was a Civil War civilian on the Yankee side, who lived in Texas. It was a bad place to be from 1861-1865. He left his family and went to join what was left of the Union government. His diary was a document that told of his travels and the people he met on the trip. Some of those people became famous later.
Did I say that the diary had to be translated? That was because the writer wrote phonetically and very humorously, too. But he was a man who reasoned well in most cases and who made very clever observations. His name was Seth B. Reid.
After telling the owner of the diary, a nice lady named Carolyn Beauchamp, who was a descendant of Seth’s, that I thought her diary was an important historical document and that she and I should write about it for a magazine, we finally took out time to attempt just that. And soon her diary’s story was “out there” for all to read. I included a photo or two of Seth in the article.
It took about a year for the article to ferment. Then I got an email from a man in Texas named Gary. He wanted to know more about that diary. It seems Seth B. Reid was his great-great uncle or some such. I gave the email to Carolyn, who had never heard of Gary. I wanted Carolyn to have the choice of contacting him. She did and soon they were swapping emails, two distant cousins with strong genealogical interests.
Recently I asked Carolyn about Gary. She emailed me,
He knew of SBR from pictures of him with his sisters, one of whom was Gary’s great great grandmother. He was eager to see what the journal said, and I sent by email several pages. He emailed of being in TX to see his grandmother and hoping to be in further contact.”
“I replied that I had assumed he lived in TX and that I was interested in knowing more – what his home state is. I don’t remember if I gave him our address – I almost doubt it, but said if he was ever in CA to let me know & we could meet.
If you ever needed proof that genealogy was like fishing, you have it now. The only difference is that you have to leave your line in the water longer. Carolyn is going to be able to fill in the blanks of her family record and so is Gary. They were two surprised cousins.
In addition, Carolyn is continuing to translate the diary into English and to type it up as she goes. Probably one of her children will inherit it, but if they do not want it, there are several libraries that would love to have it. It is, after all, a historical document full of factual information recorded by the person who observed it.
No doubt Gary will be able to fill in answers to Carolyn’s questions and perhaps supply information about places and people that are not immediately obvious.
It would never have happened if Carolyn had not allowed me to put the story out there for other people to see.
Just call me AA6TF
Thomas S. Fiske
August 31, 2009