#52Ancestors52Weeks: Help

I’ve really been trying to focus in on Robert Carey the last few weeks (though I have been distracted trying to watch as many videos from The Genealogy Show as I can before time runs out). He’s probably my most researched ancestor in my tree by myself and my Sherlock cousin. Sherlock (not their real name) and I have been researching our Carey ancestors together since we met via AncestryDNA back in 2016. Sherlock is one of my favourite family members not only because we’ve worked so hard together, but because they are genuinely lovely!

Together, Sherlock and I have discovered a lot about our family and found lots of new shared DNA cousins. It’s awesome! Sherlock set up a Facebook group where we can all share our researching, photos and birthday wishes. We have a whole new branch of the tree we didn’t know about, but I am so glad to know these cousins. We’ve a lot in common including a shared sense of humour. I wonder what Robert Carey would have thought about his descendants from across the world getting back in touch.

Help doesn’t have to solely come from other family members though. Last night, I caught up with some friends I made through a family history course. We have Zoom get togethers that sometimes go way off topic, but we have a good chat and a laugh. They are wonderful people so I am very glad I enrolled in the class. We had decided that we needed to have a more focused get together, so I cheekily suggested my ancestor, Robert Carey.

I pulled together a list of the different sources I’d been using for Robert including links to the original images on FindMyPast and Ancestry, a map I’ve been making using Google My Maps of Robert’s movements, a list of the records on Scotland’sPeople and links to a couple of online books. I threw them quickly into a Word document to send out to my classmates as a handout of what I already knew or was working on. I then pulled together my sources to make a PowerPoint Presentation on what I know but also my questions:

  • When did Robert Carey die?
  • Where was he buried?
  • Did he move away from Musselburgh?
  • Did he leave his family behind?

I shared my difficulties; the spelling of his surname, where in Ireland he came from, his injuries from the Napoleonic Wars etc. Asking for help to friends who are also keen genealogists and family historians is a really positive step. They might know of sources you missed. They might be able to see something that you completely missed. Those very valuable second, third, forth, fifth pairs of eyes that might help in blasting down your family history mystery or brickwall.

Thanks to my wonderful friends, I now have some new information, new places to look and new ideas of what I should be looking for.

Asking for help is never a sign of weakness. As someone with disabilities, I know that pride comes before a fall (almost literally in my case before getting a walking stick). Holding all your cards close to your chest so that no one else can see is really only useful for protecting the privacy of living people. Sometimes you can completely miss a piece of evidence because you were so focused on one thing, whether it’s a spelling of a surname or looking at only one area when they could have moved away.

I also have a genealogy best friend. We met online at the start of Covid and since then we speak very regularly via social media. This person will know who they are! We share our frustrations in researching, any cool seminars we’ve watched, links that we’ve found useful etc. I don’t know what I’d do without this friend. They are wonderful with not only helping with family history queries through having a second pair of eyes, but we’ve become firm friends over the last couple of years. One of these days we will meet up and have a cup of tea and a proper face to face conversation. I am SO lucky that I have them in my life now. Definitely one of my BFFs (Best Friend Forever).

I am so lucky to have my cousin Sherlock and my Carey cousins, my friends from my family history course and my BFF to bounce ideas off, to share frustrations and new finds. So don’t just sit staring at your family history brickwall. Get involved with webinars, social media groups (there are LOADS of family history groups on Facebook), join in live discussions such as the weekly live videos on Facebook from FindMyPast or the Irish Family History Centre. FamilySearch and Ancestry also post videos. Twitter have several hashtags you can follow and where there are weekly meet ups such as #AncestryHour or #GenChat or #OurAncestors. Go and follow some of the professional and amateur genealogists and family historians and see what they’re Tweeting about and what hashtags they’re using. You may just find a community that you become involved in helping or in asking for help. Social media really can help you if you use it as a tool.

Good luck to you all in your own research. And remember, asking for help is NOT a weakness.

Featured image via Openverse.