Thursday, October 1, 2009

New (and new to me) Genealogical Serendipity

From our newsletter:

We've been hearing some wonderful serendipitous stories from many of you lately. We are in a wonderful position in this industry where we get to talk to you after you have done genealogy research and gotten hooked. We count ourselves very lucky to get to work with such wonderful people and love to hear about your research.

If you listened to the podcasts I did lately you'll know serendipity has come up in my interviews quite a bit recently. And apparently the subject has been popping up other places with the people who interviewed me too. Lisa Louise Cooke just posted a new podcast talking about some serendipity stories, and I just happened to stumble across an old (new to me) podcast with George Morgan and Drew Smith that they talked about it too.

Besides the times we have talked about it on this site, snooping around a little more recently I've found a couple of other new to me sites:
Granduncle Mark's Genealogy Parlor
The Serendipity Listing on Cyndi's list
Serendipity on Genealogy Today

We've recently had our users tell us stories about searching records and having have a book open right to the marriage record of someone on different line that they thought was in another state. Or traveling to another country to find records and coming up blank, and then a cousin making a wild suggestion about a local place where the records eventually were found. Or having a business client mention someone they were looking for but hadn't been able to find and having that person turn out to be the business person's neighbor. We have heard many, many such stories this year. Thank you for sharing them with us, and if you'd ever like to share them further, we'd love to have you write an article for the blog.

And I have a great story I just realized I've never talked about here too: A couple of years ago we were displaying some of our charts at a genealogy conference. While we change the information on the living people, many of our display charts are of my own ancestry. As often happens, one lady came up and looked closely at the chart looking for people she was related to and she found Rosina Christina Gregerson, my great grandmother who died in 1934. When she said she had a book about my family and that she would sell me a copy, I was skeptical. But the book she brought in the next day was an incredible record of my family. I was actually in it as a descendant, and it ranged up through this line seven generations. It is an incredible 700 pages of stories and pictures and even included a chapter that my grandmother Hortense had written about her mother that we never knew existed. Needless to say I bought it from her and have treasured it. We often find distant cousins of mine at conferences. So if you ever need some help breaking through a brick wall, you can always let us display your chart at the conferences we go to. :-)

One of the important things to remember about serendipity is that the thing that makes these stories so great is how long the person has been looking for the information that has miraculously appeared. So don't get discouraged if you haven't had some serendipity in your research lately. There may be some right around the corner. Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, in her book In Search Of Our Ancestors, says that if you put 50 genealogists in a room, 45 of them will have had a serendipity experience. So if you haven't had one lately, don't worry. It's coming.

You know I think the word I like the best in genealogy serendipity is "miracles." I think genealogy brings all sorts of miracles into your life. It certainly has brought miracles into my life and it gives me this amazing sense of awe. It's just one of the many things that makes genealogy so exciting and fun.


Becky Thompson said...

You are absolutely right, Janet. Serendipity brings "miracles" and I want to add the word BLESSINGS to that. We have to be open to those miracles and blessings. For me, they come quite often and I think I'm able to say that because I recognize things as serendipity, a miracle or a blessing that many others might just overlook. Things don't "just happen"!

footnoteMaven said...

Miracles, yes, they do happen. Why they've even happened to me.

And yet, I continue to search. To search for the next miracle. They're out there waiting to happen.


Kathryn Doyle said...

Thanks for sharing these links! We seem to have so many "miracles" at the California Genealogical Society and Library that I've created a serendipity label for the blog.