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Genealogy Requires Tenacity

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Genealogy is a great hobby that over the years I have found brings families closer together. I have some great stories about meeting an aunt who everyone thought was dead (she didn't like most of the family and only told a favorite niece she was moving into a retirement home), reuniting family members with photos they thought were lost and spilling the beans to my mother that her parents eloped (the family hid the secret for 60 years). 

Often times it can be a boring hobby, or chilly. Cemeteries are best visited in warm weather if you don't know exactly where the headstones are located and expect to wander around for a couple of hours. Spending all day in a library reading old newspapers for obituaries is also less exciting than it sounds, especially if all the obituary says is "yep, they died".  The exciting parts about family history occur when the obituary reads (and I am not making this up), "If anyone sees her son around town, please tell him his mother has died". 

So does genealogy require tenacity because it is dull and boring? No, not at all. It requires tenacity because the information you are looking for is valuable to you and people may actually be unwilling to do their jobs just because they don't see any purpose to what you are doing.

The best illustration of this situation is something that happened to me several years ago. One of the items I always research in immigrant ancestors is to find their naturalization information. During the 19th and early 20th centuries the naturalization process consisted of an immigrant registering at the local courthouse of their intention to be naturalized and several years later the immigrant would return and be naturalized. Indexes to these naturalizations exist but in many cases a request needs to be sent to the regional federal archives to obtain a copy of the actual naturalization paperwork.

I have a number of immigrant ancestors who came to Connecticut in the 19th century so for me this was a simple task of writing out a request letter and enclosing the required fee for a copy of the naturalization. A few weeks later I received a letter from the archives but rather than the copy of the naturalization I paid for I received a letter that read as follows:

"Dear Mr. Nelson,

We are returning your check as the naturalization you requested would not have any additional information beyond what was included in the index entry. For this reason we do not feel it is worth our time to pull and copy the naturalization record for you."

This is where the tenacity part comes in. I wrote a second letter to the archives and pointed out several items to them:

1) It is their job to fulfill all records requests and not to judge whether the record has any value as long as the required fee is paid

2) The nauralization records were sometimes signed by the applicant so it might be a chance for me to get a copy of my ancestors signature

3) On a previous request the signature had included my ancestors middle initial which did not appear on any other records

So did it work? Yes it did! The archives not fulfilled my request but they also sent me the initial declarations of intent to be naturalized and noted that several other people had registered at the same time as my ancestors and were from the same country so there might be another item for me to research. And as an apology they returned my fee. 

So the next time someone stands in your way, don't let that stop you. Genealogy is more than cemeteries and dusty records. You can pick up some good life lessons.



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