Generous Family Members–Ancestry Part IV

Generous family members, genealogy, Ancestry.com, genealogical libraries, international genealogy, sharing family historyGenerous family members contributed to my research while writing Mrs. Oswald Chambers.

Ancestry.com posts information from people all over the world.

People upload their family histories and share their data, stories and even photos.

Their generosity makes researcher’s tasks much simpler.

Uploading a family tree

By simply uploading family trees, many genealogists provided me with information I sought.

Knowing a birthdate or birthplace meant I could access official records like immigration reports. I could investigate phone numbers, census data or even military records.

I could trace individuals by their sibling’s stories or recognize patterns if, say, cousins married.

Birth order made some of the people I sought more understandable in their choices. Significant births and deaths in their families gave me facts to consider.

Investigative skills I honed long ago gave me a sense of other ways to look at seemingly innocuous data.

I got to know the family history of some  individuals  better than they knew themselves.

Some of the stories were fantastic. I followed unnecessary tangents to the Congo, India, New Zealand and even China.

Generous family members, genealogy, Ancestry.com, genealogical libraries, international genealogy, sharing family history

Looking for examples, just discovered the girls are my grandfather’s cousins.

Eventually, though, I ran into blank walls.

Then I learned family members could help.

How to contact relatives

Ancestry.com provides a forum to contact people who have uploaded information.

Generally speaking, their names are not provided.

I worked through Ancestry’s message board by clicking on the link provided and writing a simple email.

It often went like this.

Subject line: Seeking information on ______________ .

The text explained I was a biographer and sought stories or any information family might have about a given relative.

I provided what I did know about their ancestor.  I explained why I sought the information and always ended with, “any help will be gracious appreciated.”

People almost always responded. (Genealogists love to share clues).

Several provided invaluable information, including photographs.

Where do they live?

Generous family members, genealogy, Ancestry.com, genealogical libraries, international genealogy, sharing family history

My 2xs great-grandmother lived in this house.

Because I used Ancestry’s international venue, I spoke with people around the globe.

I contacted family members throughout the United States, England, Hong Kong and even Australia.

A few hesitated since they were writing their own books, but most answered specific questions.

Their responses enabled me to “flesh out,” some of the historical people in the biography I’ve been writing.

One woman put me in contact with her cousin. The woman lived in Hong Kong and was the daughter of one of my heroine’s close friends.

It was an honor to exchange emails with someone who  met my heroine as a child, even if she didn’t remember.


People willing to talk about their families need to be respected.

Their information should be treated with the honor they deserve.

Anyone whose information I used appears in my acknowledgements.

They made my book richer.

I’m grateful.

Their generosity prompts a question. How much information about your ancestors would you be willing to share with a stranger?

If they were writing a book, would that change your answer?

(I’ve posted my family tree. And yes, I answer questions and send information!)


Family members aid a biographer’s task. Click to Tweet

How much would you tell a stranger about your ancestors? Click to Tweet

Using Ancestry.com to meet family members. Click to Tweet

My research serendipities while writing  Mrs. Oswald Chambers?biographer ancestry

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May’s story: In which a friend sends me on a mission to meet a stranger in Scotland


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