|John Monroe Ganus and his boys
L to R top row: Robert, Roderick, Newton
bottom row: John Monroe, John T., Frank
At the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy held in January 2012, one of the instructors reminded our class of the value of checking online trees to determine what research may have been done by other individuals. I admit that I was a little surprised because most recently I have used that resource less and less. It is frustrating to discover so many online trees riddled with error, without sources and, in many cases, simply “cut and pasted” from someone else’s incorrectly done work. But, during that class, I realized that I have essentially thrown the baby out with the bathwater, as the saying goes.
Truthfully, Rootsweb lists and message boards, Genforum, Ancestry’s message boards and online trees had all been a great resource for me in the past, directing me to individuals that often privately held information that solved some of my toughest genealogy mysteries. I say “in the past” because I realized that as I have progressed in knowledge, I have turned to those sources less frequently. As I consider the scan of a family Bible record shared by one such contact, the two scanned journals from the late 1800’s which mentioned my ancestor, pictures and treasured first person accounts that I have received from contacts met through such sites, I realize that I have lost touch with a very precious resource, essentially the living descendants of siblings and associates of my ancestors. Along with the increased availability of digitized online sources, there has been a steady decline in the once very thriving community that existed on forums and lists and many theorize that the two are related. But the truth is, digitized material and sites that facilitate exchange do not have to exist mutually exclusive of each other. None of us can truly be successful researching in a bubble. We need each other.
A good example of the value of resources obtained through online forums and lists is a journal that was shared with me by a woman who I met years ago on a Rootsweb list. This journal was kept by John J. Pledger Murphy from 1886-1887 in Georgia. In addition to giving me an idea of what life was like for many in the Cedartown, Georgia area in the late 1880’s, it also provides a glimpse into my ancestor’s life.
Following are two excerpts from that journal:
Oct. Saturday 23, 1886
John Ganus and I go a squirrel hunting we kill one squirell after two hours hunt. Return to Johnnys and have squirrel, long leg collard and sweet potatoes for dinner. Nute and Boby Ganus and John Bailey goes to town with cow and calf. They return and John Ganus goe with them to Baileys a possum hunting. Catch one fine fat possum. Frank and Rod Ganus come. Frank and me sleep at John Ganus. The bed fell down with us.
Oct. Sunday 24, 1886
At 9 a.m. Johney and the boys come with the old big fat possum. We scald him and scrape him and Mrs Ganus cooked it for dinner. I et one hind leg and some cabbage at ½ past 2:00
As I read this passage, I almost feel like I am right there with them. I love thinking of Olivia (John Monroe Ganus’s wife) cooking up squirrel, long leg collards and sweet potatoes for her family and guests one night and possum and cabbage the next. I can imagine them enjoying their dinner together and then sons Frank (William F.) and Rod (Roderick) joining them. I can just see the men all talking after dinner and deciding to take off hunting together with their Bailey relatives and then returning home together with “one fine fat possum” while the younger cousins, Nute (Newton), Boby (Robert) and John Bailey (Olivia’s sister’s son) , go together to take their cow and calf to town. It makes me laugh to imagine the crash when the bed broke in the middle of the night with their guests in it. I love knowing that Olivia’s family and her sister’s family were part of each other’s daily lives. In many ways this journal allows me to see the Ganus family in a way nothing else could.
I’m glad to be reminded of the valuable resource that we can be to each other as we share what we have. It also looks like it’s time I returned to some of those online lists and forums to see what connections I can make with the living.
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