Question of the Week: What random acts of kindness have helped your genealogy research?

+18 votes

We know how awesome WikiTreers can be in giving their time and knowledge to help someone else with their genealogy - that's why we have generous genealogist and star badges we can give each other!

The same really could be said for the genealogy community as a whole: very generous and helpful.

What random acts of kindness have helped you in your genealogy research?

in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (2.6m points)
reshown by Chris Whitten

26 Answers

+9 votes
Best answer
There have been a few! The one that comes immediately to mind, is a woman in Australia, who became heir to a letter her father had found renovating an old house. The letter was to my second cousin, Sydney Sprinz from his solicitor, along with a cheque, torn in half. The letter was about a child, and Sydney's cheque was to go to her support, but the mother had rejected his help, and money. She searched around the internet, and eventually found me. With e-mails back and forth we determined it was my cousin, and she sent me the original letter and cheque, It lead me into a search for Sydney, who I didn't have much information on. He had walked away from his family, in England, and went to Australia, seeking his fortune elsewhere, in 1914. He left England with a maid, and there the track was lost, till I received the letter. Now I have another piece of his puzzle - although I'm still searching for the maid, and the child!
by Linda Hockley G2G6 Mach 1 (14.9k points)
selected by Living Strohmaier
Thank you Dale Strohmaier for the designation of Best Answer!

The most exciting part of researching your Tree is getting a random e-mail that starts out "I think we might be related", or, "By chance are you related to . . . " You either find a new distant cousin, or at least "meet" a new friend!
+23 votes
When I first started out, I had nearly nothing; my mother's birth name was uncertain and I wasn't sure how to find it, I didn't know for certain where she was adopted, and as far as I knew, nobody was out there looking for her.

There were a whole bunch of adoptees and children of adoptees from 23andMe's forums who were eager to help me get the journey started, telling me how I could use her adopted birth certificate to find her birth information in the city's index in the library in Manhattan to get her birth name, how I could go forward from there, teaching me about genetic genealogy and how I could build out the family trees for my DNA matches to find their common ancestors and then work down from there.

Fast forward to today. My mother's tree is as far back as I can manage to get it, and I now find doing "random acts of genealogy" as a way to de-stress and have fun - finding a random profile or person on WikiTree with few or messy sources and making it neater, trying to build it out and connect it to the big family tree.

I started my journey knowing next to nothing about half of my heritage; now, I have half of myself I didn't just 3 years ago, the half of me that my mother did not get to know about herself. That half of me, her half, that she never got to know, after I learned about her family and met some of her still-living half-siblings... I stood over her grave and told her about all the things she never got to know about herself and her birth family, and it was one of the times I've felt closest to my mother.

And I owe it to the random kindness shown to me by genealogists.
by G. Borrero G2G6 Pilot (127k points)
Cool answer, GB. Really cool and well said!
What a lovely heart warming story. Thanks for sharing it with us !
+19 votes
A while back I was researching the Tedesco line on Familysearch and I connected someone who I thought was related. Turns out she wasn't. The owner of the profile messaged me and asked why I connected. I said I was a little lost. It turns out she was an expert on Italian genealogy and she helped me out by looking up stuff on the Ferraiolo side of the family for me. That was really helpful and it allowed me to prep some e-mails to send to the commune office in San Pietro a Maida. They need exact info or else it's a needle in a haystack.

Another time I posted on the Ancestry forums and someone offered to help me out. Turns out she was a distant cousin working on the Carrabs side. That was really nice of her. Because of her I filled in a LOT on that side. I owe both ladies a lot. Both were very helpful and I still talk to them from time to time.

On wikitree, loads of people have helped me out. To name them all would take a while. You know who you all are!
by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (803k points)
edited by Chris Ferraiolo
+18 votes
Too many to name! We are all standing on the shoulders of giants. I would like to especially thank a man named Rick Saunders, no relation to me, who was kind enough to go down to his local court house and find the paperwork concerning my ancestors' messy divorce in the 1830s! This is a SMITH family, too, and everyone knows the torture of trying to trace a family with that common a surname. The court papers had everything: the wife's maiden name, their children and who their children married, some mud-slinging between the divorcing couple, the works.
by Jessica Key G2G6 Pilot (325k points)
Ahhh... the Smith family... mine I mean. I hate ‘em, darn it! Well not really, but you what Smith genealogy is like, right, Jessica? I understand and commiserate.
Good description, Jessica - Giants in Genealogy!
+24 votes
The first time someone added a source to one of my profiles. Still not connected to the ' Tree' - but' that's when I felt connected to WikiTree.
by Shirley Gilbert G2G6 Mach 6 (68.3k points)
Right, Shirley! It happens just like that.
+14 votes
helping others and having them help on another issue.
by S Sagers G2G6 Mach 2 (29.8k points)
+19 votes
I gotta agree with Jessica, too many to count, and I mean here in WikiTree. I’m speaking the truth.

Sometimes I don’t even know I’ve been helped until I read through my activity feed. But, I think that the kindest thing was the greeting I received right off the bat. That really hooked me. I wasn’t expecting it.

And here’s another thing: the good things that happen on WikiTree don’t happen randomly. Folks decided to help out and they do, intentionally! Isn’t that great!

So, Eowyn the White Lady of Rohan, your first two paragraphs above spelled it out. It’s the nature of this community.

Just wish we had more generous genealogist and star badges to give out. The folks who’ve helped me the most are the ones who have 37,294 badges already, including all of those!
by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (2.8m points)
edited by Pip Sheppard
Great post, Pip. :-)
"Badges, we don't need no stinkin badges" Mel Brooks Movie
+13 votes
Honestly, probably the countless times people helped me read and translate old documents. I am terrible at reading old handwriting (especially the ones that are not in German) and most of my ancestors lived in Poland at some point. I don't speak Polish at all, so I have to rely on other peoples' translations. I'm so glad the internet exists, so I can always ask someone for help.
by Evelina Staub G2G6 Mach 1 (18.4k points)
+12 votes
Years ago, I was searching for family graves in a big cemetery in Pittsburgh.  Folks at the office said they were not allowed to tell me where the graves were, so I asked for a supervisor.  Original clerk left the counter to find another person but very intentionally left the info cards in plain sight for me to see.  Supervisor gave me the same story but made no effort to hide the cards and smiled as I left.  Quite random, and very kind of them.

Now that was cool!

Funny and very kind heart

+12 votes
In 1993 a cousin gave newspaper articles about my civil war grandfather [[Hough-1180|James Madison "Matt"]] from in 1910 when many older soldiers were dying out.  Matt wrote one entitled to "Visits to the Battlefields" where he fought but also where his daughter's married family had moved and where he finally got to meet his new granddaughter "Little Virginia."

The cousin then advised me to write to a Mrs. William Carroll in Texas. I did.  Lo and behold, she was one and the same "Little Virginia" b1905 who remembered her grandfather's funeral.

Stunned, I had to meet her and flew to Texas.  While there she bequeathed on the spot, about two dozen original photographs of  Matt, his wife,  children and  grandchildren, and even Matt's mother - the only one not labeled.  We identified her by process of elimination and placement of the photo at Matt's home. Grandmother was  [[Doster-105|Sarah Doster]]

Mrs. William "Little Virginia Jordan" Carroll passed away Jan 10, 2000.

Not just a kindness but a life long memory.  Thank you for listening and for sharing your RAOGKs!
by Living Breece G2G6 Mach 4 (46.4k points)
+8 votes
I find the people who are serious about genealogy are the kindest and most generous.  I am often touched by how complete strangers will reach out to you and offer help.  My most memorable example of this was when I was searching for my husband's biological grandparents (his dad was adopted).  I was trying to prove/disprove that the biological father was a member of the family that adopted him. After a wide search I could only find one living biological descendant of this family line (almost all the documented children were adopted).  He was a complete stranger who lived in Georgia (we are in Massachusetts).  I contacted him and he generously agreed to take a dna test and refused to let me pay for it.  With this act of kindness I was able to determine that the adoptive family was not his biological family, and it ultimately led me to the true biological parents of my father inlaw
+11 votes
My biggest joy, is when someone is kind enough to let me use their photographs of shared ancestors. It's just brilliant the way we can help each other. And it means the world to me, to see these old photographs.
by Joann Hanmer G2G6 Mach 1 (14.5k points)
+10 votes
When I was just getting started, I contacted a lady who had posted my great grandparents to find a grave to thank her.  We emailed a bit, and I told her what I thought I knew about their history.  She took it on herself to go down to the county courthouse and found my gg grandma's will, which named her 4 living siblings, and their addresses. With this I was able to track them back to Wales. The will was filed in Oregon and I live in NY so without her help I'm not sure if I would have been able to break that brick wall. Because of this kindness, earlier this summer my sister and I were able to visit the graves of our ggg grandparents, who had immigrated from Wales in 1848 and farmed about 70 miles from where we grew up in Wisconsin. Circles in circles.
by Jennifer Wilson-Pines G2G6 Mach 1 (12.9k points)
+8 votes
I'm from 400 years of S. Jersey farmers: The Swedes & Dutch all having lg families with very similar naming patterns so Stephen Gary Smith was forever helping me unravel (we're related about 7 different ways on Mom and Dad's side!) then I found 2 4GGF were Methodist Ministers so contacted NJ Methodist and they put me in touch with Rev Howard Cassaday, who just happened to be my Grandmom's (Mary Elizabeth Cassaday) 3-4th cousin!!! Then, NJ State Archives were amazing and even correcting the family tree that one of my cousins had done by LDS (while he and my brother were students at BYU.  My only thought being: God Bless our ancestors who did this before computers!!!
+10 votes
I have found that genealogists, as a whole, are very kind, and helpful to one another.  I supposed it's because we all know about a difficult search we've had ourselves.  There have been other acts of kindness given to me, and I expect there will be more, and I try to pass these kindnesses along to keep the chain going.

But here's the one that means the most to me:
I was looking for a small town in Hungary that my grandfather had come from.  My Dad gave me the name of the town (Nagy Dam), and another name (Veszprem) that might be connected.  But my Dad grew up never speaking Hungarian, and was in his late 60's at the time and his memory of all things Hungarian was spotty at best.

I had done a lot of searching through microfilm at the Church of Latter Day Saints and had found the names of some relatives. Then, I found the GenWeb site for Hungary and posted a query, asking if anyone had heard of the two places.  One man answered, he not only knew the town, he had lived there, and his brother still did.  He wrote his brother, who went out looking for the relative, and found him.  The first man had me write a letter, send it to him, he translated it, sent it to his brother, who took it to my 2nd cousin in Hungary. My cousin in Hungary did not believe the connection at first, but after help from the two brothers, he realized that we were, indeed, cousins.  The man who lived in America even went to visit his brother, and went on to meet my cousin and his family.  He took pictures and sent them to me and he wrote me about the meeting.  And so, a long-distance correspondence sprang up.  I would write a letter in English, send it to the man in America, who translated my letter, and sent it to his brother, who took it to my cousin.  My cousin then answered, in Hungarian, sent the letter to my contact, who translated it into English, and sent the letter back to me.

This eventually led to my sister and me travelling to Hungary to meet our relatives. I eventually lost touch with the man here in the US, when he moved, but his kindness will never be forgotten.
by Terri Jerkes G2G6 Mach 2 (23.1k points)
edited by Terri Jerkes
+8 votes
When I first started tracing my family roots in the 1980's it was quite a challenge. First of all, my Mother was an orphan in Chicago and I didn't know where to start. Back then, you had to physically travel to a library or send a letter and do a lot of waiting. I sent a letter to the University of Wisconsin in Madison and Professor Gerhard Naeseth personally answered my letter and sent me a manifest of a bark ship that had sailed to the U.S.A. in 1837 from Norway. Bingo, there was my roots on my Father's side. With the advent of the computer age I have finally located my Mother's side (Latkoff). It is like digging for gold, only to me more rewarding knowing where I came from and the wonderful people who paved my way!
by Gary Fruland G2G Crew (480 points)
+9 votes
My story is too long to tell, but it starts with someone on Wikitree pointing out where a little girl was buried; leads to an old man giving me documents from forty years of research he'd done on the little girl, including a transcription of a Bible page which is the only source I've found for the children of the little girl's grandmother; and ultimately, in September, it will lead to cousins joining me from Mexico City and Texas to visit her grave in Colorado.
by J. Crook G2G6 Pilot (234k points)
+12 votes
When I first started researching my Wright family line branch I fell into the common mistake on Ancestry of accepting what family lines were already "proven." Suddenly I was the proud descendant Sir James Wright, the last Royal Gov. of Georgia. My mistake was compounded by telling my father who was 89 at the time, thought it was wonderful and sort of a snob:-)   (On a trip to London he even went to Westminster Abby found Wright's grave and told me the Gov was buried 10 feet from Charles Darwin.) In the mean time what's too good to be true, etc I researched the correct line, but couldn't correct it cause Dad was on Ancestry also. .Then the topper was a lady from the same Wright line sent me a message on Ancestry telling me to do my homework and in general reading me the riot act.for sloppy genealogy:-) I explained all the above, she chuckled about my Dad and sent me copies of the Wright family Bible records that were the proofs in my research and I love that lady for her act of kindness and understanding.
+8 votes
I've been researching my family history for too many years to count. As Jessica said, "on the shoulders of giants." There have been more generous genealogists in my path that I could ever name, but my personal family history reports each contain lists. I have never become accustomed to that generosity, but last week Alexander of Australia capped all!!! He had found my Johnstone profiles on WikiTree and emailed to ask I had ever heard of [Johnstone-2024|James Johnstone], brother of my Prince Edward Island immigrant 3x great grandfathers, [Johnstone-1624|William] and {Johnstone-1630|David Johnstone]. I said "no" and later found that I did have a mention of him, just a name and year of birth, and had wondered if it was an error. Alexander Romanov-Hughes' response was to send me a research report done by a professional genealogist that explained James relationship to the family and outlined his life story with loads of references. When I thanked him, I asked how he was connected to the family. He replied with a link to his extensive website outlining the descendants of James. A family history gift of incredible riches!

Thanks to WikiTree's huge community and larger reach than I could ever imagine, I have the most wonderful contacts.
by Judith Chidlow G2G6 Mach 5 (58.6k points)
+8 votes
My random act of kindness came in the form of Faye Stent Whitfield.  I discovered she is my second cousin twice removed who lives in another country while I live in Erie, Pa.  She compiled most of the Stent family history and I was able to fill in some of the missing pieces.  Faye is thorough in her research and is a joy to work with so here's to you Faye - I'd share a glass of champagne with you if I could!

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