Help For Newbies

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“Man, man, has it never crossed you that it’s a queer thing the like o’ you and me having no ancestors? Ay, we had them in a manner o’ speaking, no doubt, but they’re as completely lost sicht o’ as a falgon lid that’s fallen ahint the dresser. Hech, sirs, but they would need a gey rubbing to get the rust off them now. I’ve been thinking that if I was to get my laddies to say their grandfather’s name a curran times ilka day, like the Catechism, and they were to do the same wi’ their bairns, and it was continued in future generations, we might raise a fell field o’ ancestors in time.” — Waster Lunny

The above quote by Waster Lunny, a mid-19th century, poor Scottish farmer in Sir James M. Barrie’s 1892 fictional novel The Little Minister, seems quite profound. Although the author penned it tongue-in-cheek, any modern-day genealogist would be thankful for an ancestor who had acted upon Lunny’s philosophy!!!

Just starting out in genealogy? Have ancestors like Waster Lunny’s, who did not bother to hand down generations of family information to you? Starting from scratch and feeling overwhelmed by all that’s out there?

Years ago, in my late teens, I was in your league as I began family research. The game was a lot different to what it is today. Before Internet, research meant either a pilgrimage to one’s ancestral town or, if it were too far, investing in a coil of postage stamps, typewriter ribbon, “white-out,” and paper to do “armchair research” and long-distance correspondence. It had to be written communication, as long-distance telephone calls were so expensive. The good ol’ days…. 😉

When I was 14, my sister (12 years my senior) traced our mom’s family back about five generations. It wasn’t that hard, since Mom’s parents were distant cousins on both their paternal and maternal sides. And our mom’s mother was alive at that time–as well as Mom’s father’s siblings that outlived him. (As he died when Mom was a teen.)

The “hard” part of research was my dad’s maternal side of the family, which was a mystery. He left home when he was 17, just after his mother died, so he didn’t remember much about his mother’s family. After Mom and Dad married (1947), Dad told my mom there weren’t many left in his mother’s Loy family. It’s true Grandma’s mother died when Grandma was six. And her father and stepmother died in 1930 and 1933, just before Grandma died in 1941. But I would later discover his mother had been survived by her 11 full and half siblings, besides nieces/nephews; four Loy uncles and one aunt; and numerous first cousins. Not to mention those more distant. Yet, at time I began my research, it seemed impossible to research a family my dad knew very little about. Besides, we had just moved over 2,000 miles from Illinois, where Dad’s Loy family lived since 1828. Despite my obstacles, two years before his 2000 death, my dad was able to see my large Loy volume, evidence the Loys hadn’t died out! Had I not persisted, I might never have found the truth: The Loys weren’t extinct–Dad had been unaware how much of his mom’s family lived in the same area where he was growing up.

So, if I can do it, you can do it, whether you’re tracing the Loys or any other line. Of course, if you’re of Martin Loy’s (to America 1741) branch, you’ve lucked out because I probably already have your line listed in my records…. 🙂

→ RULE NUMBER ONE: Cite Your Sources

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