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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6 thoughts on “Treasured Find

  1. Hello – and welcome to Geneabloggers! You are so right about many of those online lists, forums, & trees. Using them as a 'clue' to point you in the right direction often helps – and so very often brings to light a gem like the one you found from that journal. 🙂

    Good luck in your research – and with your blogging!

  2. I, too, cut my genealogical baby teeth on such resources as Rootsweb and the various forums. You are right: it was once a very active and thriving community, a resource for much more than the much-maligned unsourced posts of family trees.

    I often wonder if part of the decrease of such sites is also owing to the acquired disdain of genealogists-in-training, taught to leave such sources to the unwashed masses. In the process of this mass exodus of those who could provide gentle leadership, like the hollowed-out ghettos of once thriving cities, the forums become even more devoid of the shared resources, advice and guidance that used to be everyday fare at these sites.

    I, for one, value the give-and-take of those forums. Whether they resurrect in those same online addresses, or morph into a different form (such as the newer genealogy pages on Facebook) they fill a vital place in the collaborative work of family history research. Yes, it is fun to meet distant cousins, but oh, how irreplaceable those moments when we could connect with a relative who holds a tangible key to our own history–a family Bible, a memento, a photograph.

    So glad to find you today via GeneaBloggers. I'm looking forward to following your blog–another community-building resource.

  3. Carla,Jim and Jacqi thank you so much for your welcome and your comments. I agree Carla that the "clues" and gems that can be found are wonderful. Jim, it's so wonderful when someone is willing to share such a treasure as a 19th century album. I also agree with you Jacqi that in the process of preaching primary resources, some have misconstrued the purpose behind that direction. I also agree that we need to be part of the give and take of those forums and as we grow to learn more, it then becomes our turn to help the new researcher just beginning the process. I've really recommitted to visiting the forums more often and to looking for more opportunity to be on the giving end.

  4. Welcome to the GeneaBloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill 😉
    Author of "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories" and family saga novels:
    "Back to the Homeplace" and "The Homeplace Revisited"
    The Heritage Tourist at In-Depth Genealogist:

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