A while ago, I started this mini-series called "Stepping Off Into the Past" to discuss my understanding of the processes of doing genealogical research. I identified an ancestral line, the Springthorpes, where there were apparent problems, with obvious contradictions and little source information.
The main issue involved a family showing that both the husband and the mother had either the same mother or the same father, depending on which handed-down pedigree you wanted to follow. I began with the first verifiable descendant of this couple to gather specific source documents, making sure that I had a documented link back on each step. By doing this, I avoided the common mistake of diving right into the problem, without an adequate foundation of research.
One key to this process, was putting the information out to the public on the Internet. This turned out to be a crucial step in finding existing information accumulated by other family members. In fact, in this case, because I was, in effect, doing my research in the open, I was helped by other family members, including distant relatives, to find a gold mine of new information. This information includes a book about the family, full family group sheets, photos, letters, certificates, gravemarkers, in fact, everything about the family that is presently known with full, and I mean full, documentation and source references.
Now, this material was always out there. But in this case, the work had only recently been done, the book has apparently not been published, and I had no knowledge or previous contact with the author. This careful and in depth research had taken years. Without the Internet and connections created by this blog and my daughter's blog, TheAncestorFiles.blogspot.com, the information would have remained unknown to me and unavailable. As it was, the entire file, including the entire book, came to me through Dropbox.
I need to emphasize that there is spiritual side to genealogy, that can be ignored, but not disregarded. Each of us has our own personal beliefs concerning an afterlife and the continued existence of our humanity after death. My belief can be summarized best by learning about our beliefs about Family History. Receiving this type of research information may seem extraordinary, but for me, it is not unusual. Just yesterday, as I was teaching at the Family History Expo in Duluth, Georgia, I had the same experience, a distant relative in the class, shared a whole folder of certificates, photos, gravemarkers and other documents with me concerning the Tanner family. I have come to expect and rely on this kind of help. As week seek after our ancestors, they will also begin seeking after us.
Now, back to the research. It will take me some time to go through the pile of information I received. But I will be back shortly with a new understanding of what still remains to be done.