But with the invention of the Internet, human interaction often becomes 'old school' and we sometimes forget that genealogy is a social science made possible by others sharing their family histories with one another. We sit for hours and type away, entering new names within old search engines, sometimes providing new pieces to our puzzle, and sometimes not. And if I were to count up the number of hours spent in front of my computer over the years, I am certain I would be shocked at the results.
With the discovery of my Irish ancestors in Michigan, I fervently tapped away on the keyboard, searching every corner within the cyberspace community. Placing keywords within my Google search-bar, I was presented with one of my more exciting discoveries: The Irish Genealogical Society of Michigan. With a scroll through each page, I came across the societies' surname registry. It looked interesting, a publication from the society, released for Detroit's Tricentennial Celebration of 2001. With a glance at the title, I paused, giving the publication consideration, then continued on my way. Occasionally giving a click back, staring at the title, and wondering 'could my ancestors be hidden within its' pages?' I once again move on, leaving the website to check other results from my hasty search.
As the days pass, I began to reflect back on the little publication from the Detroit society. Once again reviewing the website, clicking on the page to provide description of the $12.00 book, I thought, 'why not?' Considering time and money that I have invested over the years in my genealogical 'obsession', $12.00 is nothing in comparison. A 'spit in the bucket', my Irish ancestors might say, so I printed off the order form, signed my check, and ran to the post office. Hoping for more answers but expecting none.
With a pleasantly quick response from the society, the 190-page publication appeared on my doorstep. Hastily flipping through the long list of Irish surnames, I quickly found two entries for Crawford. Realizing one of the entries provided the name of the Michigan township my great grandmother was born, I immediately went to the cross reference for the surname submitter list. A listing of phone numbers was provided and I stared at the number for the submitter of my Crawford surname. 'I'm certain this number won't still be good', I thought, realizing the publication was several years old. I put the book away to go about my weekend 'must dos', but I could not refocus my mind away from the book.
...And so I took the risk. I picked up the phone, punched in the phone number and a voice was immediately on the other side. At first sounding uncertain as to my inquiry, the woman on the other end began to understand the nature of my call. And with increasing excitement, she confirmed that our ancestors were one in the same.
Many phone calls have been made since our initial contact and genealogical records have been exchanged. But I feel I have learned much more than she: Receiving amazing documents, providing answers to blank spaces on my family tree. A large envelope of new records of my Michigan ancestors is now filed away. None found within the Internet but discovered as a result of an almost extinct genealogical technique: human interaction. The sharing of personal histories, family bible records, notes passed through the generations that are not held within cyberspace but filed away inside office drawers and attic boxes.
So what can you, the family historian, take from my ramblings of the day? When you come across a surname list or a book of personal history, consider ordering the publication. Keep in mind, there is most likely someone in the 'real' world, holding the information you have been searching for :'Real records within 'real' books from 'real' people.
For a general surname list to connect with other researchers, go to Rootsweb.
Keep searching for answers,