FamHist Blog

Family History Research Hints and Tips

Premier Membership on FamilySearch

Not everyone is aware that there is a “Premier” membership level on FamilySearch.  Users with the Premier level membership can see all of the document images that are available on the site.  Those without it, can see many, many images but some are reserved due to licensing and other contractual agreements.

Readers of Science Fiction novels will recognize the initials “TANSTAAFL”.  They apply to FamilySearch as well.  

“There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch” 

A great deal of money and time is required to acquire, license, digitize and host family history records.  Someone has to invest up front and in the long term to bring the myriad of resources found on FamilySearch to us. 

The primary investor is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  They along with their partners in the project and folks like you and I who spend time as volunteers indexing records for inclusion on FamilySearch and related sites, round out the group.

A quick search for “Premier” on the Help page of FamilySearch provided a link to the Premier Membership Document that explains the program and the details of how we can obtain a “Premier” membership level ourselves.


The cost is certainly right.  All we have to do is volunteer indexing.  Earning 900 points every quarter gives us premier membership level access.  That certainly makes sense.  Investing about a half-hour of our time a week indexing the records that we use to help in our own ancestral quest is not only a ‘light fee’ but a ‘right fee’.

Indexing is easy and rewarding work.  If you don’t already have login credentials for FamilySearch, you’ll need to create an account.  The credentials extend to the Indexing section of FamilySearch.  

Once you have an account, take 2-minutes to view the Test Drive of the Indexing tool and process.  The site notes that No Special Skills are Required and that is the truth.  Even the young folks in our family can easily run the indexing tool. 

As a family history researcher, you’ll be used to reading the majority of the birth, marriage, death, census, church and other documents that you’ll see as you index. 

The folks at FamilySearch and its partners already have and continue to Pay-It-Forward.  Now it’s our turn.  We all benefit from the Indexing, both now and in the future as Free Searchable Indexes are created that we can access in our PJ’s from home.  The related images online are frosting on the cake.

Scroll to the bottom of the Indexing page to see the lists of Current, Completed and Future projects.  You may also want to scroll through the historical records on the FamilySearch Beta site to get a flavor of how much indexing has already been completed and of the scope of this worldwide project.

Below is the Premier Membership document from FamilySearch that explains the program in detail.

I’m sure that we’ll see each other in the glow of our monitors as we spend a little time Indexing each week, doing the right thing for the right reason.

Document ID: 109840

Premier Membership Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions:

  • What is FamilySearch premier membership?

    • Premier membership gives you access to view information (images and indexes) in some record collections on FamilySearch.org that might otherwise be unavailable or that you might otherwise have to pay to view. While FamilySearch does not charge for viewing this information, sometimes the record owners do.

  • Why does FamilySearch require premier membership to view these images?

    • Since we do not own all of the collections we publish, and some record owners require compensation to maintain their collection, this method enables more collections to be available for research. FamilySearch invests in private archives by preserving records and making these collections searchable.
      FamilySearch and some of these archives have agreed by contract to allow access to those who make a significant contribution to this process. Without premier membership, you can usually search the indexes of these restricted collections; however, the images may not be freely available.
      There are currently (as of June 2010) no collections that should require premier membership to view images. If you see records that require premier membership, please report that through the Feedback link.

  • How do I become a premier member? Are the benefits available to everyone?

    • Yes, they are available to everyone through any of the following methods:
      • Index records and earn 900 points within a calendar quarter.
      • Belong to a sponsoring organization, such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or another company or society that sponsors FamilySearch.
      • Additional methods of contributing to FamilySearch may also qualify you for premier membership in the future.

    • In the future, family history centers located around the world will receive access to these restricted collections as well.

  • Why do members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints receive premier membership status?

    • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the largest sponsoring organization of FamilySearch. Funded by the contributions of its members, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints invests in records and resources for family history research. Access to these resources is extended to the general community whenever possible.

  • What is the difference between being a “member” and being a “premier member?”

    • A member is anyone who has registered for a FamilySearch account. Some collections will require the researcher to at least be a member in order to view the information in the collection. A premier member is someone who has qualified based on the guidelines indicated above.

  • Are there ever collections that a premier member cannot view?
    • Indexes for most collections will be available to premier members; however, some archives require that you view the images on their Web sites, and at times they may charge to view those images.

Indexing Specific Questions:

  • When do I have to earn points to extend my membership?
    • You must earn 900 points during a calendar quarter. The first quarter of the year is January through March; the second quarter is April through June, and so on.
    • Once you earn 900 points, your premier status is immediately given for the rest of the current quarter and the next or following quarter. For example, if you index 900 points during July, you will earn premier membership that will last through December.
    • At the end of every quarter, the qualifying points are reset to zero, much like a cell phone plan that does not carry over minutes between months.

  • Why is my expiration date “Never”?
    • If the expiration date is “Never,” you are a member of a sponsoring organization that does not need to earn points for premier membership.

  • Why don’t the names indexed add up to what the points are?
    • Points are calculated from the number of names indexed, and they are given based on the difficulty of the record. Projects that are easier to index are generally worth fewer points, but at least one point is given for each name indexed.

  • How much do I have to index to earn 900 points?
    • Indexing for approximately a half hour every week would usually earn the qualifying 900 points in a calendar quarter.

  • Where do I find out how many points I currently have?
    • Sign in to the indexing Web site, and click My History on the left to see your statistics. It will inform you how many points you have and how many are required for you to attain premier membership; or if you are already qualified, it will tell you how many points you need to earn during this calendar quarter to retain your premier membership for the following quarter.


Calendar Quarter

Three (3) months of a year; the four quarters are defined as: January-March, April-June, July-September, October-December.


A group of similar records that is searchable on Record Search, such as England birth records, for example.

Restricted Collections

Collections in which either its index or images cannot be viewed without being a FamilySearch member or premier member.


Someone who has registered for a FamilySearch account.

Premier Member

Someone who has qualified to gain additional access to record collections due to indexing 900 points in a calendar quarter or being a member of a sponsoring organization.

8 October 2010 Posted by | FamilySearch | , , , | Leave a comment

Find-a-Grave Gold

Over the years, I’ve spent thousands of hours taking photos of tombstones for my genealogy research and to post on Find-a-grave.   At times, some of the tombstones have turned out to be those of relatives that I’d yet to discover.

The hours spent taking tombstone photos and later cropping and massaging them has been an effort but I’ve been well-paid as I learned a little about the people they memorialized and the communities of their time.   Life was different for them than we enjoy. Repeatedly seeing families with numerous infant deaths witnesses that fact, but the family groupings also witness family strengths as generation after generation are buried within a stones throw of each other.

Posting photos of the tombstones I’ve visited on Find-a-grave has been a great way to Pay-it-forward and thank others for their help in my ancestral quest.  They live in locations I can’t visit and have taken time to post similar photos on find-a-grave, work on indexing for FamilySearch, etc., and I’ve benefitted from their efforts.  Similar activities on my part just add to the reference pool that all of us can freely access.

These resources have become an integral part of my research routine.  Family linkages, photos, documents and data being posted on find-a-grave at an ever increasing rate has turn the site into a ‘must search’ in my research quests. 

Recently, I spent an evening looking through my records specifically searching for extended family members whose existence has been all but impossible to prove. 

Searching find-a-grave for them provided three positive hits in succession.  ‘Hits’ is a mild descriptive compared to the data about that branch of the family that had been posted on the site in recent months by someone paying-it-forward too.

Tombstone photos, person photos, vital record documents and text told the stories of the lives in this family.  Moves eastward rather than westward surfaced as did the shift in spelling of their surname.  No wonder we hadn’t been able to find them for so long.  They had indeed ‘faked’ us out with their jigs and jags.

If you haven’t already included find-a-grave in your research plan, add it.  Don’t hesitate to add information and images to the records of your own family members on the site.  If you didn’t create the memorial, ask the creator to add the data and make the links you send to them.   Sometimes, they will transfer the memorial to you if the record isn’t part of their own family.

Over time, we’ll undoubtedly see a lot of additional data added to the site.  Be sure to check back.  Users of the site almost universally feel a need to take the time to link family records together.  I’ve linked my own ancestors records and families together for many generations to help my cousins in their own ancestral quest even though I have their records on my own websites. 

You’ll find yourself doing the same thing when you work on your own family memorials on find-a-grave.  Bet you can’t link just one… 


20 August 2010 Posted by | FamilySearch, Genealogy | , , , | Leave a comment

Recording Life ~ Fishing

My father had a unique skill in interpersonal relationships.  Without selling someone something they didn’t want, he could nonetheless divert their objections as if he was Obi-Wan in the Star Wars movie.

The power company needed to install a new feeder circuit in a fast growing city in Utah.  Everyone wanted the power for their homes, offices and stores but none of them wanted the power lines necessary to provide that service.  Frustrated with months of fruitless powerline conversations, public meetings and incentives, the district manager responsible for the city turned to my father.

“Elwood, I’m taking you out of your position as foreman and am giving you a car, line plans and little if no money.”  “Go get the right-of-way we have to have to upgrade that feeder circuit before the whole south end of the city goes black!”

Great!  An assignment that had stymied numerous ‘professional’ right-of-way agents, management and even high level city officials.  “Get the right-of-way”.  “Much of the city will be in a permanent blackout by July – three months away.”  “You have little money to spend.”  In those days, little money was the $100 contingent fund in district offices.  Management authorized their district managers to spend up to that amount without having to go through an arduous budget hearing.

Opening the rusted trunk lock on the 1962 Ford, he placed a bucket full of wood stakes, wood lathe, fluorescent marking tape and a hammer inside.  A puff of smoke always followed the vehicle when a foot pressed the accelerator.  Two hundred plus thousand miles of start, stop, idling city driving will cause that problem in a meter reading vehicle.

Within three weeks, Dad’s uniquely calm reasoning had awaken the common sense in all but one property owner along the route.  He hadn’t approached the old man yet.  Having heard the stories by the legions who had preceded him in the quest, he opted to resolve the issue last and with finality.

Soda at camp Wearing his normal tan Dickie work shirt, shrink-to-fit Levi’s with rolled up cuffs, work boots and a shirt pocket full of pens, pencils and a plastic template, he told the old man answering the door that he was there to finish driving the last stake in place before construction started the next morning.   The old man shouted, “What power pole on my property?”  “You aren’t doing anything on my property!”

Giving the old man a look of pity just as you would to a dunce and with a slight shake of the head, Dad pointed to the four foot tall lathe with four six-foot-long tails of fluttering survey tape centered in front of the man’s living room window.  “It’s going in there.”  “We’ll be here at 7:00 a.m. and I just wanted to let you know to not sleep in tomorrow.”

Sleep in?  The old codger probably hadn’t slept past 6 a.m. in his life.  Dad knew he was always up working around his house or yard shortly after 5:00 a.m. every morning.

With his hands on his hips, Dad looked at the stake then up at the living room window and back again at the stake.  Shaking his head, he unrolled maps.  “I’d have put it a little that way – closer to the house if I’d have designed the job, but it looks like one of the engineers has definitely taken your view into consideration.”

“What?”  “A pole in front of my window is taking my view into consideration?”  “Are they crazy?”  Commiserating with the old man, Dad agreed that a fifty foot tall pole was hard to interpret as a window even with the best imagination, but that’s what Dad’s ink dot on the plans said … “See?”  “Don’t worry, the auger on the truck is only 28” wide.  In this rocky soil, the hole will get bigger as it bounces around, but it shouldn’t end up being much over four feet wide when we’re done.”

You know the rest of the story.  After ten minutes of arguing, Dad let the man move the lathe stake to the fence line and pound it in the ground — right where he wanted it when he arrived that morning.

Turning to leave, he heard the old man say, “See.  You can’t push me around.  I’m a better negotiator than all of you”.  Yep.  Dad had brought out the best common sense negotiation skills from the old man.

Flash back to the early 1950’s.  A stream fisher all of his life, he frequented the hard to access streams where the big fish lived.  The Ute Indian Reservation in eastern Utah includes the south slope of the Uintah Mountains.  Rock Creek was a favorite stream for serious fishermen but it was both expensive to fish because of the fees associated with the permit and the permit restrictions themselves.

A fishing trip was needed.  If you stayed just a little to the west, there were excellent streams to fish.  The old Plymouth and LaFayette were loaded with tents, grub boxes, sleeping bags and fishing gear.  My sister, brother-in-law, father, mother and myself enjoyed the two hour ride to the campsite.

Plymouth and LaFayette Early the next morning, Dad and Roy went fishing and fishing was good.  Some were released.  Many were kept for breakfast back at camp.

The splashing behind them got louder.  Looking up, they saw a federal game warden riding up on his horse.  Dad lifted the front brim of his old fishing fly covered Stetson to get a good look at the wardens face.

“Good morning.”  “How is the fishing this morning?”  “Oh, its not too bad.  We’ve released all the smaller ones.  We just need enough good pan sized Brookies for a good breakfast.”  “What fly are you using?”  “Well, according to Ken Aycock over in the Basin, these rock roller flies are the best and they seem to be working this morning.”

“Ken Aycock?”  “You know Ken Aycock?”  “Sure we work together.  I’m out this way working on projects all of the time.”  “Do you know …. “ The list of names and places started to flow.

Staying close to hear when the power of the law was going to drop on them, Roy finally moved away to fish up stream while they talked.

When he came back almost an hour later, they were still talking.  The fishing creel on Dad’s hip was still full of grass and trout although they were both getting a little dry.  Dad’s old bamboo fishing rod was still in his left hand.  The three pound test leader and fly was trapped between his palm and the pole.

Finally, the warden tired of reminiscing and comparing notes on people and features in the area.  “Well, I guess I’d better ask to see your fishing licenses and permit.”  Roy’s heart stopped and his blood ran cold.  Fishing on the reservation without the permit could result in a thousand dollar penalty and loss of fishing rights for a long time.

Dad turned his head and the warden could see Dad’s fishing license in its plastic holder neatly tucked under the hat band on the right side.

“Well, you do have a permit too don’t you?”  With a guffaw, smile and a headshake, Dad said; “You don’t think we’d be fool enough to be fishing here without one do you?”  Apparently, the music of the conversation still echoed through the mind of the warden.  He turned his horse and started off saying; “No, I don’t suppose you would.”  cleaning_fish

Roy claims he didn’t start breathing again for twenty minutes, but everyone knows that even standing in water the temperature of ice, humans can’t hold their breath for more than fifteen minutes.

As I remember, the fish were very good eating although I was really hungry by the time they arrived back in camp to be cooked.

Another Elwood Drew story to add to the book.  There are hundreds of them.  Probably thousands.  Forty years after his death, I still hear them from time to time, especially from people who were children in the families that received his quiet assistance.

There are choices.  There are consequences.  Paying it forward will eventually rebound to your own assistance.

I suppose you’ve recorded your own similar family stories so they won’t be lost in the next generations.  Without them, how will your grandchildren know your parents and grandparents?  Don’t let them be lost to time.

Spend a little time and effort and record your own precious family stories.  They are the flavor, texture, smell and substance that extend the memory of our ancestors.

9 May 2009 Posted by | Journals | , , , | Leave a comment

Choices ~ Consequences

Choices. Consequences: They never sleep.

From the time we are born, we make choices and enjoy the consequences of those choices. We often associate the word “consequences” with something bad, but it also represents something good happening in our lives. The “good” is a result of a choice or choices that are building blocks or enablers of positive positioning and positive results in the experiences of life.

My father was not known as a leader in the community, in business or even in his neighborhood. Rather, he was an activist who quietly and often anonymously improved the lives of others. His choices were usually simple yet always consistent. He actively looked for a way to improve the life or outlook of others and rarely failed to immediately act on an opportunity. Frequently, his actions consisted of only a few kind words spoken to address an area in the personality of his contact that was shunned or ignored by others. On some occasions, he gave all the money he had to those in need. A pair of shoes for a twelve year old.  A ride and tank of gas for a stranded traveler. He even gave his vehicle to a widow who was struggling to feed her three small children.

Over the years, many new people came into his circle of “friends”. They were from all levels of the social strata. Some were wealthy, some were movie stars and others lived in shacks hidden away along the river or in an orchard. However, most of them were just ordinary people  who only needed the polishing of a few kind words or acts to help them reveal their nobility.

The term “Pay It Forward” was first introduced into his vocabulary in 1962 when his vehicle stalled in the center lane of a bridge in Seattle during the evening rush hour. Cars honked, people said things out of their windows and others shook their fists in frustration, but one young man stopped to help.

After years of quietly helping other people, he received a return payment for his way of life. The vehicle was easy to fix. The carburetor was only vapor locked. The young mechanic poured some cool water over the hot fuel system and the vehicle started easily. Dad tried to pay him for his help only to receive the words, “Pay It Forward” to someone else in need”.

Like ripples from a rock thrown into a peaceful lake, the good deeds of a lifetime had reflected off the far shore and had come back to help in a time of need. It was time to send them out again and continue to “Pay It Forward”.

During the visitation at his funeral, our family was astounded to be greeted by hundreds of people from all over the western United States who had come to pay their respect. We didn’t know most of them but the visitors all had stories to tell about how they were helped by our deceased father and husband.

Many of the visitors had only met him once, but the interaction had established a life-long feeling of friendship. They came from all walks of life. There were mayors, truck drivers, waitresses, a man on parole, a bank president, an attorney, and hundreds of other occupations. Their stories were as varied as the personalities telling them. Enthralled, we listened for hours.

One ‘friend’ was a police officer whose life had been saved, another had driven 16 hours non-stop from northern California to make it in time for the funeral. He explained that he received a hot meal when he was at the ‘bottom’ from a fellow who quietly walked over and sat by him. He said that he was now a successful husband and father and that his life had turned around after talking to the man at the counter in the bowling alley that day. Retrieving his wallet, he showed the worn, tiny slip of paper on which he’d written the name of his benefactor, saying that he often looked at it when life threatened to harden him.

The stories were new. The impact of repeatedly choosing to perform small positive acts resulted in consequences never imagined. Ripples were almost waves.

Choices. Consequences. They never sleep.

It has been said that the gate of history turns on small hinges, and so do people’s lives. The choices we make determine our destiny.  -– Thomas S. Monson

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
somewhere ages and ages hence;
two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference.”
— Robert Frost, poet

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25 March 2009 Posted by | Research Tips | | Leave a comment

My Friend – David Burgess – A Short Life

The other day, Roger Bell, President of Footnote told me about one of his friends who died at age eleven.

Tonight I remembered his story and thought about my own friend, David Burgess, who was killed along with his mother in anBurgess_accident_sm auto accident when he and I were five.

My memories of his last two hours of life haven’t dimmed much in the intervening  years.

His hand waving out of the car window as they drove away…   I can still see his hand waving…

He would be dead in just a few more minutes.

I found the old newspaper clippings that I’d cut from the Salt Lake Tribune the day after the accident and used them in a  Footnote page about David’s last day on earth.

The story from my perspective would have gone to the grave with me until Roger’s comments triggered  memories of my friend, David Burgess ……..  and now, thanks to Footnote, the story is recorded for others.  Click here to read it.

I hope his siblings find it one day.

How many memories, photos and old newspaper clippings do you have stored away that need to be recorded and shared before it is too late?

Jot them down.  Put them on your blog, on your website, on Footnote or in a binder that you donate to a library.

Someone, sometime, will be extremely appreciative of your thoughtfulness.  Gifts of this nature are worth more than gold.  If you’ve ever been the recipient of one of these “gifts”, you know that it is true.

It’s all just part of “Pay-It-Forward” …  Right?

15 November 2008 Posted by | Research Tips | , | Leave a comment

A Shovel On His Shoulder

I was out on the front lawn playing with my dog when I heard someone whistling.  Looking up, I saw my great uncle Si Bennett walking down the road toward our house with a shovel over his shoulder.

He wore his old sweat stained Stetson hat, bib overalls and work boots.  I don’t think he stood much over five foot five or six inches tall.

Bennett_Si Dark hair, hands like knurled oak brush roots and a face with canyons on it in place of wrinkles finished the picture.  One of the old-time standards could be heard coming from his puckered lips as I watched his eyes latch on to the six year old boy ahead.

Nodding to me and asking how I was this fine morning, I had to ask although I already knew the answer;  “Going up on the cemetery to dig a grave Uncle Si?”

“Yep!”  I don’t remember who he told me had died, but he was headed up to hand dig the grave.

The Alpine cemetery is really just a big hill comprised of mostly granite sand and small round rocks that were deposited by Lake Bonneville thousands of years ago.

Digging graves in that hard dry soil was difficult at best.  Si’s once pointed shovel attested to that.  The blade wasn’t much more than half as long as it was when it was new and it was worn closer to a square nose than a ‘good’ digging shovel should be.

Si didn’t have the money to buy a new shovel, but he cared about treating the dead with respect.  Irregardless of the difficulty of opening the grave, it would be ready before the funeral party arrived that day.

I don’t know how many graves uncle Si opened and closed on that hill but the count was high.  He opened the graves for his parents, several of his siblings including my grandmother and grandfather, several nieces as well as many friends and town folks.

Si and his wife Alberta spent many days pouring through old burial records finding information on those buried on the hill with no markers.  Over the years, they identified most of their final resting places and properly recorded them in the sextons burial records for the cemetery.

Later in life Si used to like to sit by the coal stove in the kitchen in the evenings to read and nap a little before going to bed for the night.

One evening his youngest daughter came home from a date and noted that her father must have just nodded off because the rocker was still slightly moving.

Virginia went into her parents bedroom to tell her mother about her date and to visit for a few minutes.  Aunt Alberta said “Tell your dad to get up and come to bed or he’ll be too stiff to get up”.

Virginia shook Si’s shoulder and delivered the message but received no response.  Uncle Si had peacefully stepped out of his body and moved on.

Si and Alberta are buried in the Alpine Cemetery now.  The records they so carefully kept are now part of the official city burial records for the cemetery.  Alpine_graves_sm

Partly to honor their service, I’ve  spent time taking photos of every headstone in the cemetery and have created records for the deceased they represent on Find-a-grave.com.

I saw uncle Si’s respect for the dead over and over as a youth.  Some of it must have rubbed off on me.

How about you?   What acts of kindness have you witnessed that have become imprinted on your personalities?   How many of your characteristics are rubbing off on your family and those who know you?

We all just Pay-it-forward don’t we?  Try to to find an act of random genealogical kindness that you can perform for someone today.  It counts.  Guaranteed!

30 October 2008 Posted by | Cemetery Records | , | Leave a comment

Those Wonderful Historical Societies

From time to time I ‘rummage’ through my file cabinets and binders looking for information and documents that have either been misfiled or overlooked.  I’m always rewarded in this activity as lost or forgotten treasures turn up, much to both my chagrin and delight.

I use an extensive filing system and try to keep all my genealogical documents organized and correctly filed.  However, long hours at work, church activities and other general ‘busyness’ seem to intrude and at times foil my filing.

Recently, I noticed that my database was missing data that I knew I had in my files.  After looking through the carefully labeled and numbered binders and file folders, the documents were still only aCalaveras_historical_society memory and not a hardcopy in my hand.   Eventually, I found them filed under the wife’s maiden name rather than under the husband’s surname.  Not only did I have the documented information I wanted, the tour through my files also revealed many other treasures.

In 1985, I first visited Calaveras County, California looking for information about my 2nd great grandparents and their families.  One of the highlights in that trip was the stop to  the Calaveras County Historical Society in San Andreas.  After listening to the purpose of my trip, the wonderful person at the desk immediately made a telephone call.  The director answered and conveyed the latitude and longitude of ‘TREASURE’ on the shelves in the vault of the Society.

Climbing up the ladder, the assistant stood on one foot and reached as far toward the back of the top shelf as she could.  She retrieved a dusty old box and carried it down to a table for review.  Little did I know that the contents of the box would cause such an impact on my life.  The box contained a history of my great grandparents along with their photos and the photos of their children along with the text from grandpa’s diary as a miner in the gold rush.  It also contained and old rice paper photo album that was full of photos taken my my great grandfathers niece.

Carrie May Wilbur moved to California from Plymouth, Massachusetts to live with her uncle and aunt, David and Helen Drew in about 1902.  She married David Ross, a widower and manager of one of the copper mines near Copperopolis.  The family had enough money to purchase not only a camera, but based on the number of photos in the album, as much film as they wanted to use.  Fortunately for me, Carrie liked to take photos of the family and even had enough money to return home to Plymouth and take photos of her mother, sisters and inside and outside the Drew home at 51 Pleasant Street.

Just as I started to ask how they had obtained possession of the photo album, a note dropped out of the album explaining that it had been found in a yard sale about forty years after Carried died.  A member of the Society purchased it to add to the collection of records and photos in the vault of the Society.

My grandfather left home while still in his teens and our branch of the family had little to no knowledge about our Drew lineage.  The photo album opened a window in time.

The rice paper had dissolved where the ink was written, so the photo descriptions were read by following the remaining outlines of Carrie’s handwriting.  Looking closely at of of the interior photos of the parlor in Plymouth, I saw two large old photos hanging on the wall.  Could they be my ancestors?

I had to have a copy of the photos in that book.

We were joined by another member of the Society who suggested that we photocopy the book, which we immediately proceeded to do.   The photocopies weren’t very good.  I wanted more.  They agreed to take the book to a photo shop in Sacramento and have photos taken of all the photos I wanted.  I left a deposit to defray the coping costs and left on my long trip home.

Eventually the photos arrived and I scanned them at very high resolution hoping to see more detail.  Wow!  I was rewarded!   Looking at the photo of the parlor, I could see the faces in the photos on the wall.  They looked just like my great grandfather, David Lewis Drew, but were obviously older.  Of the two, I could see that one was older than the other.  I later found additional information that confirmed that the two men in the photos were my 2nd and 3rd great grandfathers.

I never would have found all of this treasure without the existence of the Calaveras County Historical Society.

Fast forward eighteen years.  Great grandpa Drew’s parents-in-law, Thomas and Mary Tirrill Farrar had long been ‘Brick Walls’ in my research.  Late one evening in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, I found a newly published book by the Walworth Historical Society that cataloged the tombstone inscriptions in the Brick Church Cemetery in Walworth, Wisconsin.

Earlier research said that grandma had died in or near Walworth but after years of research, I couldn’t find anything about her death or about she and Thomas’ immediate family.

Quickly opening the book, I found her tombstone inscription listed along with other members of the family.  Christmas came early that year, all thanks to the Walworth Historical Society.   The story gets better.  After contacting one of the of the members of the Society, she agreed to take photos of the Farrar tombstones for me.  A day later, I had digital copies of the photos.  A forty year quest finally produced results.

The Farrar tombstones are all grouped together and one showed that I had a great uncle who died as a child.  Another listed the name and information of my third great grandmother!

I love those wonderful local historical societies.  Societies around the nation have continued to help me ever since that day in San Andreas.  If you haven’t visited or contacted the societies in your area or near the locations associated with your own ancestry, don’t delay.   Do it today.  They contain magic, adventure and treasure.   Support them financially, with your time and with records and photo contributions.  Pay it forward and reap the harvest of your investment from that time on.

8 September 2008 Posted by | Research Tips | , | Leave a comment