by John Driscoll
John Driscoll is a member of MGS and an early adopter of Member Pages. This is an article about his experience that appeared in the May 2012 edition of the MGS Newsletter (see Newsletter, May 2012).|
Six months ago, at the urging of Peter Biggins, I added my Driscoll-Prendergast Family Story to the Member Pages of the Middlesex Genealogical Society Website. When I asked Pete what I should add to the site, he told me that the format was wide open and I could volunteer anything I wanted. So I wracked my brain trying to think of something to put on the pages that would be of interest to everyone, but then I came to the realization that my personal family would only be of interest to me and my relatives.
I still wasn't sure what I could add that would be of interest, so I looked at what was already on the site. Studying what and how others publish their material gave this old dog some new tricks to learn.
I went back to an old report I made in 2007. Back then I had been studying my family's history for about six or seven years and had compiled quite a few "dry" facts. Irish research is tough, but New York research is relatively easy for me because, for the most part, my family immigrated from Ireland to Brooklyn and Manhattan (the first in 1837) and lived there until my grandfather moved to Queens in 1914. The New York Municipal Archives on Chambers St. was a treasure trove for me to explore. The data mined from those archives, the New York Public Library, Family History Centers and censuses, to mention a few, allowed me to put together a narrative to share with my family—not just immediate family, but also those I found by "cold calling" prospects.
Before the narrative, when I tried to show family members what I was working on, I would pull out the old laptop and open my genealogy file, only to watch their eyes glaze over as they looked at thousands of sources. They were not familiar with the program I was using and did not care to learn the program before looking at the content. They would look at five different recorded birth dates for the same person or three different spellings of a surname and would lose interest as dinner was being served. They have not been bitten by the genealogy bug. They all care, but want to study it on their own time.
So I compiled the family narrative to the best of my ability from the file I had and sent it to my relatives. It was complete with poems relating to
my surname, histories of my two parents surnames and family crests (even if they don't actually exist). I decided to use this as my contribution to the MGS Member Pages.
Last month, I got an added bonus. A third cousin, googling her great-grandfather’s name, found my story on the Member Pages. Her great grandfather was my great-grandfather's brother. She contacted Peter who in turn e-mailed me and she and I have been sharing information for a few weeks now. I think it is so special when you find a relative. Her father is still alive and in his 90s, and she will visit him in April. This spurred me on to rewrite the Driscoll-Prendergast Family Story almost doubling it in size as I added what I have discovered in the last five years and Peter updated it on the member pages this past week. Now she can take the story with her when she sees her Dad.
The Member Pages are a nice addition to the MGS Website. I am very impressed by the potential of a personal Website that family members can access. If I ever slow down in my ongoing research, I hope to learn how to create one for my own family. I would also like to read more stories about peoples experiences in their searches. I get inspiration from the work of others.