About "Good to Know: A Genealogist's Guide"

A multi-discipline approach to genealogy - A genealogist's way of working generally encompasses several different fields of study at once, thus the more well-rounded your genealogist is concerning various disciplines of study, the better that genealogist will be able to locate your ancestors, and maybe even tell you a little about what they were like.

This blog will discuss what types of things are "Good to Know" for a genealogist or for anyone researching his/her own family tree.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ancestor Approved Award

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Irene Winterburn who writes the blogs: Jirene's Genealogy Tips & Jirene's Genealogy Treasures.  I was thrilled to find she had nominated me for the "Ancestor Approved Award": an award created in March 2010 by Leslie Ann Ballou, author of Ancestors Live Here, as a way to show how much she appreciates and enjoys "blogs full of tips and tricks as well as funny and heartwarming stories...".  Thank you Irene Winterburn! 

As a recipient of the "Ancestor Approved Award" I'm supposed to list ten things which surprised, humbled or enlightened me about my ancestors.  It took me a while, but I finally came up with those 10 things.  I was also asked to pass on the award to 10 other genealogy bloggers.  I haven't yet figured out who they're going to be yet, but I'll be sure to let you know when I do.

So, what are the 10 things that surprised, humbled or enlightened me about my ancestors?  Many of them involve one of my Civil War ancestors, probably because I know so much more about him than most of my other ancestors.

1)  I am humbled by the courage & strength of my several greats aunt, Sarah Towne Cloyce, who stood up for her sisters' wrongful deaths when they were hung for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusettes.  It's not just that she stood up to the court that murdered her sisters, it's the fact that she was a woman who was standing up to the all-male court in the early 1700s.  Seems fitting to honor her during this Women's History Month.

2)  I am humbled at how my ancestor, Samuel H. Melcher, was able to treat his patients in a time when so little was known about the human body, diseases & treatments. 
I've been reading up about doctors, medicine, and treatments in colonial and later times, and the more I learn about what little knowledge they had, the more surprised I am that they were able to do so much with so little...not to mention the lack of technology.  In those times, treatments were often one of the following: mercury, bleeding, blistering & purging.  They also didn't really know what "germs" were and many thought pretty much all diseases were derived from "bad air".  Possibly due to this reasoning of bad air being the cause of disease and illness, many doctors and surgeons didn't wash their hands before, after or between patients. Yuk.

3) I was surprised to learn that my Civil War Surgeon (from above) ancestor went through his entire life without ever having to perform an amputation.

I was surprised to learn that the Civil War Surgeon (from above) was able to successfully divorce his wife on the grounds of "desertion" when he was the one who moved away and did the "deserting".  Why did he move away?  He was caught with a prostitute when he was the head of a hospital and was dismissed.  When he told his wife they were moving, she told him she wasn't coming with him.  According to the courts, the fact that she didn't go with her husband amounted to her desserting him.  Weird, huh?

5)  I was surprised to learn that two of my ancestors, Thomas Goodfellow & Charles Woodbury Melcher (son of Civil War Surgeon mentioned above) were inventors and actually had patents.  I was also surprised to find that Google has a way to view those patents.

6)  As a "trekkie", I was surprised to find I had a connection to Star Trek with a distant cousin, the granddaughter of Bing Crosby: Denise Crosby.  She played Tasha Yar on Star Trek: The Next Generation for the first two seasons before she was killed off by a tar-like creature on an away mission. Still, woo-hoo!  

7)  I'm humbled by the fact that had those individuals on the Mayflower not rescued John Howland after he went overboard, I wouldn't be here today.

8)  I'm surprised at how addictive genealogy is.  Whether it's the name printed on the back of a football jersey or watching the credits roll by on a tv show or movie, I think about genealogy.  I've had trouble getting to sleep sometimes when faced with a particularly difficult genealogical challenge.  I often find myself analyzing the data I have in my head trying to think of places I can search, what I might have missed or where I haven't looked instead of just letting myself relax and drift off to sleep.  I've even had genealogy-themed dreams.

9)  I know I'm supposed to say how I was enlightened by my ancestors, but it's important that I include here how I was enlightened by my genealogist father as well.  I worked with him, learning the techniques of genealogy research as I was doing my criminal justice internship. Prior to this, I was unaware of all that genealogy entailed.  It wasn't just knowing what records were out there, but which ones to search at what times, how every case was completely different and it required your brain to adjust to totally different circumstances and then reach a conclusion as to when to look where and how to analyze the massive amounts of data.  There's so much about genealogy that involves you, the genealogist, to know what bits of information are important and should be taken note of, and which things aren't.  Every step of the research involves you making decisions, and every decision is entirely different as we have totally different information and a totally different goal for every search.  We have to take into account what we have, what we don't have, and what we are searching for and where to look for it.  The complexity of it all & the ability to organize and multi-task is paramount in how successful one will likely be in achieving their goals in the rhelm of genealogical research.  Not all of this is easily taught, even by a genealogist who has been doing research since before I was born.  Somehow, though, I learned these things.  Thanks Dad!

10)  Finally, although this isn't about my ancestors per se, I'm pleasantly surprised at the generousity of genealogists I have come into contact with.  Even though, it may have taken hours upon hours to create a tree that goes back hundreds of years, they are gladly willing to share the information with those who request it without expecting anything in return.


  1. Heather, I wanted to nominate you for another award - the "One Lovely Blog" award. I really enjoy reading your posts and thank you for the time you put into them. You may stop by my blog to see the rules that go along with accepting this award. Ginger

  2. A great blog. You have found so many interesting things about your relatives and it inspired me to take a closer look and some of the relatives I've skipped over... I think just about everyone has something unique about them, we just need to keep probing to find it. Thanks for sharing.