01 June 2010

Finding genealogical gems in message boards

After 25+ years of being an avid genealogist, it’s clear that some (okay, most) of my relatives do not share my passion for family history. A few nuggets of fascinating information and that’s enough for them to digest.

Luckily, I have Ruby. About a dozen years ago, I found a posting that Ruby had written to the RootsWeb message boards. I don’t know if it was posted in the surname or localities boards but clearly we were after the same elusive Ephraim Gibson of Ipswich, Massachusetts.

We soon discovered that Ruby and I are 5th cousins, twice removed. She descends from Ephraim’s son William (1744-1820) and I descend from Ephraim’s son John (1740-1797). We’ve never met in person. She lives on the West coast, I live on the East. But it’s not unusual for us to send email several times a week or even five times a day. Together, we have shared our research, split researching duties, and rejoiced in our genealogical finds.

You’d think that having two sleuths on the case would make the research easier—and it does—but this family has been elusive. Apparently, some avoided recording vital life events, others didn’t own land, a few drifted out to sea. We have come across family members in other people’s trees, often with no parents, no dates, and no documented data. It’s as if no one else “owns” them the way we do. We have found collateral cousins researching the Clough and Raynsford lines and we’ve found other Gibson researchers who stem from other trees. And all of these connections were from using online message boards.

Besides RootsWeb message boards (now owned by Ancestry.com), try CousinConnect or RootsChat. Then be patient. It may take months, even years, before someone responds. Maybe you’ll be lucky and you’ll find a new research friend like I did.

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