Wednesday, February 12, 2014

How to find living relatives?

A woman came into the Genealogy Library today looking for help with her Ukrainian ancestry. I explained to her that my research has been limited to my American ancestors. She went on to say that she wants to find living relatives and wants to find out how to use Facebook to find living relatives. She stated that her parents were the first generation immigrant.

Well, I tried to explain to her that Facebook was designed for you to connect to people you know, not to people you don’t know. I explained that Google+ is designed for you to connect to people you don’t know but might share common interest. So she asked how to use Google+ to connect to people with the same surname as her genealogy interest lies. I explained to her that perhaps she doesn’t want to use Google+ for this purpose because these people might not be interested in Genealogy. She asked then why are they using Google+. I tried once again to explain that all kinds of people with all kinds of interest use Google+ to connect with people who have their same interest. Not all people’s interest is genealogy.

I decided to explain it this way. Remember back in the 70’s and 80’s when those surname books were coming out that claimed to have all the answers to your genealogy? When in fact those books were just generic text about how people moved or migrated from you ancestor’s homeland to America and then they included all the addresses of people with the same surname in American, Canada and sometimes other countries. I explained how my maiden name had such a book that my parents purchased and I wrote to all 136 names in that book. I requested basic genealogical information from them and included a self-addressed stamped envelope. I even offered to share what I found with them. I received 3 replies.

I further explained that in this digital age, when people received friend request or emails from strangers, they will just simply press the delete button.

I explained that perhaps she might want to start by using Ancestry’s trees. She could find others who are also searching her desired surname and contact them with her information and offer to exchange information. I stated she might have better success since these people are already showing an interest in Genealogy by having these trees on-line.

She also told me that she has written foreign vital records offices and asked for all the information they have on living people with one surname. I tried to tell her that is too board of a request and how was the clerk going to know who is still alive. She promptly told me “those that don’t have a death certificate.” I asked, if she really expected someone to look for a person’s death certificate every year between their birth and today’s date and then how was the clerk going to know this person’s contact information? I explained that she might really want to hire a professional genealogist to do some research in the foreign country.
She also explained that she has contacted an elderly cousin but due to communication problems, she hasn’t been able to get must from her. I wonder if she ever asked this woman if she had a list of people who are still alive in the family and their addresses. Or maybe this was too obvious.

Well when she left I wondered if she was as flustered as I.

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