Sunday, May 13, 2007

Pay It Forward

Most of us are 'beholding' to someone else for some if not much of our ancestral knowledge. Mom, Aunt Fran or Uncle Johnny collected family history information for years and eventually you received a copy of their work. You've added to that 'starter seed' of data, photos, histories, etc., since, but few folks actually start their ancestral quest from 'scratch'.

We are universally grateful to those who collected that family history even if they had some errors in their data. They had the foresight to not throw away their descendants 'seed corn', and from their sometimes meager data, great family history collections have grown.

Genealogy / family history research shouldn't be a solitary activity. Many minds make research easier if they coordinate their research goals and jointly review the results for errors, speculation as well as true facts. It is always good to have one member of the team be slightly skeptical ... the challenger of the accuracy of data. As long as the team understands that they need the alternate view of the data, they will be much more effective in finding their true ancestral lineage. Folks always want to find the connection to someone famous or an ancestral tree the extends far back in time, but before we claim these links, they need to be true.

I've mentioned the website Find-a-grave in earlier notes. I like the site because it is user driven and the users are folks who love family history and helping other people. The active participants of the site are constantly posting burial data and photos of headstones for the use of others. These active site users are a team of typically unrelated people working toward the goal of sharing the burial data that they have in their area. The pay? Nothing monetarily, but their efforts produce good 'karma' if nothing else.

Find-a-grave posters are using the site to 'pay it forward'. Pay what forward? It is the repayment of the debt they owe someone else who collected the 'seed data' and shared it with them. They are paying forward all of the kind genealogy deeds that they have received from others. Other current and future researchers can now benefit from the burial and headstone data found in the cemeteries they have visited when it is posted on the
find-a-grave site.

This past week, my wife and I visited two cemeteries in our
area. I took photos of the headstones while she made sketches of the old markers of our ancestors. I've now posted the photos of almost every headstone in the Alpine, Utah cemetery on find-a-grave as a result of these excursions. It was important to me to do this because I have received photos of family headstones taken by other family history researchers in locations that I can't visit. In their notes to me, these wonderfulfolks have explained that they are just trying to repay the kindnesses they have received in their own research. Although they 'only' shared photos with me, the photos are of 'high value' in my own ancestral quest. Hopefully, the photos I've posted will be of equal high value to other researchers who are trying to find information on their ancestral families.

When you next visit a cemetery, take photos of the headstones surrounding the resting place of your ancestors and family. When you get home, take a few minutes and post them on find-a-grave. It won't take too much time away from other activities and eventually your forward payment will circle round and you'll be the beneficiary of your own kind acts. Guaranteed...


Larry said...

As a findagrave volunteer I started documenting all of the cemeteries in my township and doing requests. I figure the average request cost me about $5 and 3 to 4 hours of my time, but I enjoyed it. After doing about 50 requests and only receiving 7 "thank yous" I decided if people couldn't take the 30 seconds it takes to respond to the notification that their request had been met then I was no longer going to answer requests.