Wednesday, March 27, 2013


I wasn't able to physically attend  Roots Tech last week, but like many others I
was able to see some of it thanks to the livestream webcasts. (And thank you
to the corporate sponsors and the Roots Tech organizers for making it possible!)
These included the excellent keynote speakers each morning. On the first day,
the three speakers really touched me. They were Dennis Newhall, Syd Liberman,
and D.Joshua Tyalor.  I'm sort of paraphrasing and summarizing here: Genealogy is
more than just  names and dates, it's the stories behind them; that we should
find those stories and once we do, we should share them. That really resonated
with me.

I was lucky when I first started getting serious about climbing my family tree because
I already had some stories. I had my Aunt Dorothy West Bargar's research and her
handwritten account of growing up in Maine during the Depression. I also had
my distant Ellingwood cousin Florence O' Connor's book The Ancestors and
Descendants of Asa Freeman Ellingwood and Florilla (Dunham)Ellingwood
has all sorts of information and stories on our branch of the Ellingwoods. And
finally there was another book The History of Wilsons Mills and the Magalloway
which has some pictures of my West relatives and my Granduncle
Clarence's memories of his career as the manager of the Azicoos Dam.

So I already knew that I had Salem Witch ancestors and that 2x great grandfather
Asa Ellingwood was a Civil War veteran and I had some Mayflower ancestors as
well.  As time went on I made more and more use of the internet and made
contact with Barker family cousin Howard Kaepplein who shared his knowledge
of the Barkers'  history with me and West cousin Lewis Wuori who sent me a
treasure trove of West and Richardson family pictures. By now I had discovered
genealogy blogs and had started my own here so I could share with others the
stories and pictures I'd found or that had been given to me. I found out that there
were other bloggers out there who were related to me and again stories and
information were shared. Meanwhile, I posted my research(warts and all) as a
public tree on Doing that, and writing this blog, put me in contact
with distant cousins I might not have ever found. More stories and information
were shared.

You know that tagline that annoyed some of us when they first
started using it, about not needing to know what you are looking for when you
first visit that site? It's true in a way, You do need to know who you are looking
for at the start, along with some essential information like where and when,
but the what is information you find on the censuses and military records and
other documents you discover there and elsewhere. Armed with that and with
effort, patience,and luck you can find the stories behind the information.

Once you find those stories, don't keep them to yourself like some treasure.
Share them, because if you do, you may encounter a few people who will just
take them, but you'll also find others who will share back and become your
friends. That is how the geneablogging community began.

So, to all those who have shared with me, thank you!


Elyse said...

I've been doing genealogy for 10 years and admittedly, my first few years were all focused on names and dates and not much on the story behind it all.

But over the years, there has been one truth that has shown itself to me time and time again: Behind the names and dates is a real human being with a story. Sometimes when we look at the charts and forms, it can get easy to forget that these were real people, with real experiences, and with stories.

It is our job as family historians and genealogists and general keepers of the family "stuff" to remember to also look for the stories. The stories bring the past to life, make it feel real and tangible. It is our job to find those stories, preserve them, and share them with others.

You hit the nail on the head, Mr. West. Great post!

Bill West said...

Thanks Elyse!

Diane B said...

Bill, this is a nice summary of what it means to collaborate and actually learn something beyond names and dates. Thanks for sharing these thoughts!

Gould Academy Class 1966 said...

How far we have come in our research. I do agree that initially (nearly 20 yrs ago) that was the standard practice (names & dates). Now it goes deeper than that.

You've done a great job and have certainly been an inspiration to me to delve deeper into more than statistics.

Thank you, Bill