Wednesday, May 8, 2013

P is for Patience and Persistence - Family History Through the Alphabet

Patience and persistence are sister attributes that make life more successful for family historians.  If we don't start with them, we surely acquire them along the way.

We patiently wait till we can arrange the visit to the courthouse two states away; for the response to our letter of inquiry from the sexton of the cemetery; for FamilySearch to index a record group or patiently browse the images one at a time.  Then when we get to the courthouse and learn that they're not really thrilled to have "guests," we persistently (and very politely) persuade them to let us have a look.  When there's an online site that continues to add more material, we return on a regular basis to search once again for that particular ancestor.  We keep digging through those unindexed records (unless we're willing to patiently wait).

The following experience was a good early lesson.  In 2007, not long after I'd begun working on family history, I was trying to find the Lutheran Church records for my German-born great-grandfather who lived in Steubenville, Ohio.  I discovered the name of the church as it was in 1870, then noticed that its name evolved several times through the next 40 years.  When I learned that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America had records for most of its parishes, I contacted them.  By U.S. mail.  (I can't remember if it was their choice or my preference.)  I corresponded across five letters to different people and different offices until I finally learned that they had no records for my grandfather's church.  Hmmm.  What to do next?  I contacted the Steubenville public library to ask if they knew where records might be.  I learned that my grandfather's Lutheran Church had joined with the United Church of Christ.  It's name had changed once again but it was easy to find on the internet.  I contacted the church and learned that they did, indeed, have records from the time the church began and that yes, they had a church historian who would not only search the records but was able to read old German.

I felt as if I'd struck gold - and as though I'd been panning for a year!  That early lesson in patience and persistence has stuck with me.  I can't give up when the first answer is unhelpful.  I have to keep keep looking and waiting till I find the resource, record, or help I need.  As for patience, sometimes it helps to let an ancestor rest and return to him or her a little later.  I let search options stew in my brain for a while and sometimes when I return to the search, I find just what I was hoping to find. Patience and persistence have become my friends.

Perhaps you have had similar experiences?

This is a post for Alona Tester's Family History Through the Alphabet challenge at Genealogy and History News.  Thanks for creating and hosting, Alona.


1 comment:

  1. Of course I've had to have both patience and persistence. These days it is just amazing how many things are becoming available on the internet and it is always fun to do a search every six months or so and see what is new. Of course, I think everyone has that "dead end" that languishes for ever (I'm trying to find a death record in Wisconsin--no idea where--for an Ole Johnson--ha ha. No exact date, either.) But those just make the Eureka! moments of when you finally find something that much more Exciting.


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