Genealogical Reflection Prior to the 2019 Ontario Ancestors Conference


As the facilitator for the Ask a Genealogist program at the 2019 Ontario Ancestors Conference in London, Ontario, I have come to realize that my genealogical “black holes” pale in comparison to those of other researchers. Attempting to match 40 attendees and their research challenges with genealogists who can potentially help them blast through brick walls has been my life for the past two weeks- a labour of love.
I am looking forward to hearing from the attendees I was able to match with a genealogist after their sessions. Does success require someone who has access to the lesser known collections of data as our Branch research teams do, the wide spread knowledge or sources as our Special Interest Groups have, or can just talking through a research challenge with another genealogist be just as valuable? Do new eyes see things differently?
The stories in the research challenges remain similar though. I have had a few of them in my genealogical life. A curious telephone call I received in the fall of 1999 heralded the arrival in my life of a half-sister who been given up for adoption in 1939. It was a time of highs and lows. I met her in person in November of 1999 and the next time I saw her she was in hospice. I attended her funeral in March of 2000 in Nova Scotia. Her arrival explained why there was a two year gap in my mother’s photo collection. The Children’s Aid Society had provided her with a copy of my mother’s obituary so she was able to find us. Losing her so soon was hard but our family almost doubled in size with a nephew and two nieces who brought more children into the family mix.
DNA research brought new impacts as well. I was informed via a DNA contact that one of my great aunts had married a Cherokee in Oklahoma Territory. That led me into research of the process of how orphaned children managed to gain Cherokee status. DNA matches also confirmed some of my “paper trail” research.
Of course, there are the challenges. I have substantial centimorgans in common with an adoptee who lives in Western Canada. My AutoCluster report from MyHeritageDNA allowed me to predict the female lines we may have in common. Then there is the five year gap in Irish Church records in the time period in which my 2X great grandfather Andrew Sims was born.
We can’t let the “black holes” in our family trees turn us off family history research. We can continue to fill in the blanks by adding the stories from the time that we can find records for our ancestors. We can be in a “holding pattern” waiting for records to finally be digitized and indexed but in the meantime we need to record and publish the information that we do have with good source citations so the next person [hopefully one of my children or my granddaughter] can easily continue the search. One of my pleasures in the past year has been to pass on sourced family trees to other researchers who in some cases are more gung ho in their research that I-especially now that I am giving back to the genealogical fraternity that has been so helpful to me.
This is a short post as in a few hours I will be on the road to attend the 2019 Ontario Ancestors Conference in London, Ontario. If you have not registered for the Conference yet it is not too late to register for a day visit. Do visit Marketplace, no need to be registered, and delight in all of the genealogical “toys” that the vendors have brought to London.
Join the fun!
Alan Campbell
Ontario Ancestors [The Ontario Genealogical Society]
© 2019


One thought on “Genealogical Reflection Prior to the 2019 Ontario Ancestors Conference

  1. Wonderful blog post. After 25 years of research I’ve come to embrace the brick walls, black holes and the challenges of genealogy. The elusive moment that frustration gives way to revelation is unlike any other.

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