How To Help Someone Research Who Has Little to Start With

“I’ve Your Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands!”

“Shake, Shake, Shake! Shake, Shake, Shake.. Shake your booty…”

“Ce-le-bration Time! Come On!”

“Dance to the Music”

Okay… I can go on and on with the dance lyrics. In fact, I discovered a list of songs specifically about dancing!

Now why am I dancing? Did I break down a brick wall? Did I solve a long term mystery? Did I receive something I have been longing for in the mail? Nope to all of the above. I danced because I helped someone.

I had the fun opportunity to help a young man to piece together his family tree despite the fact that he knew very little about his family to start with. In fact, he was the only entry on his family tree to start with. We won’t go into much detail about why that is, because frankly I didn’t ask or care. I knew we were starting with essentially nothing but we might be able to find something.

While working with him, the conversation went like this:

“Do you know you’re mother’s birth date?”  (Me)
“Well about how old is she?”
Maybe 40 something?

I kept picking his brain for any clues that I could use to help him search It was initially discouraging but I knew if we kept at it, something would be remembered and we could get some where. As he remembered even a sliver of information, I put it into a family tree, more like family sapling.

At one point, he became justifably discouraged and went to make a phone call. It fell like he was using the “Phone a Friend” option available to contestants on Who Wants to Be A Millionaire? In the meantime, I cast the dice with my paltry information to see what I could find.

There is a spirit at work when these situations arise and it looked kindly on me and this young man. I struck gold and found the index to what I thought was his mother’s birth record while actually for his grandmother’s unique name. There aren’t a lot of records available for living folks on for privacy reasons, but we had enough to give us a foundation to start from. I was fairly certain I had made a discovery so I asked him to hold the phone and come and see.

A simple question of, “Is your Grandmother’s middle name Francine?” opened the eyes of this young man wide. He said “Yes! How did you know that?” Truthfully, I didn’t know for sure. I needed confirmation of some sort. His memory was triggered and he was able to provide the reassurance that I needed. That one record opened up more records and we slowly added information to his spring of a tree.

Yipee!! Time to do a genealogy happy dance. From there, we were able to find more clues to push his line back into his deceased ancestors that he didn’t know anything about, but he’s about to find out. Meanwhile, the relative on the phone was also flooding him with names. I kept plugging in a few of their suggestions and found other supporting records. He will have to add this stuff to this family tree, because we ran out of time to piece all of it together online.

The whole experience was exciting. There were other folks working on family history but I think I was the only one dancing when we found a new discovery.  I’m not a genealogy wizard but I do LOVE helping people getting started with family history.

Family history can be fun and you too can do genealogy happy dances, no matter what song you ‘hear’ as you do your suave movements.  You may never appear on Dancing With the Stars but you’ll feel like you’re on Dancing With the Ancestors and that’s a great play to bust a move.

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.


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