As genealogists, we sometimes get so caught up in what we are doing that we forget who is behind the indexes, abstractions, and transcriptions in books and databases that we use to find our ancestors. They are not well-known authors or famous in any way, other than they took time out of their lives to help current and future generations find their family members. Are you interested in becoming one of these unsung heroes of the genealogy world?
Recently, while searching for the meanings of my family’s surnames, I came across some interesting information on the origin of names. I always knew some surnames were derived from occupations, like Smith, Mason, Shoemaker, Miller, Farmer, etc., but I didn’t realize so many were also derived from nicknames and geographical locations. Classifying surnames and figuring out their origins has long been an interest of historians and genealogists.
During a recent patron request, I was asked to look up the service records of an aviator who flew in World War II and was stationed on the U.S.S. Enterprise. I knew that the Midwest Genealogy Center would have many different types of materials to help with this request, and I was right.
Recently, I received a genealogy research request that brought me to a lesser-known part of the Midwest Genealogy Center’s extensive genealogy collection. The customer’s request was for information regarding an ancestor who had been investigated by the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.
Have you ever taken a close look at some of the questions the enumerator asked when taking the census? Some questions don’t seem very useful to a genealogist. (Yes, I do realize that censuses were not taken just so I could use them for genealogy.) One particular question caught my attention one day and became a way to track an elusive family. I found my ancestor on the 1855 New York State Census. Looking at the original image, I noticed writing in a column next to his mother and brother that others didn’t have.