As you may have read, I’ve been working on a series of brief family narratives, attempting to outline each of my lines of interest for future generations. (Brief is the key word.) It is a kind of insurance, or personal reassurance, that the major results of my research won’t get tossed aside some day, regarded as leftovers from an eccentric’s obsession.
To supplement the story lines, I decided to make descendent charts for my children’s two sets of grandparents. That way they will be able see their aunts, uncles, and cousins, each set on a single page. Fortunately this only involves about 30 people on their father’s side, and even fewer on mine.
In addition I have been sorting through the most significant family photos and making sure they are thoroughly identified, with names, and where possible, dates and locations.
This effort has other benefits besides providing me peace of mind and giving some sense of order to my efforts. Certain gaps are made apparent and can easily be filled in with help from today’s (trustworthy) online sources. I have been inspired to get in touch with distant relatives in order to confirm dates and add a few more current names. And it has encouraged me to make sure the most important family photographs are logically integrated into the “final” result.
Obviously I will never be truly finished. And to wait for that magical day is to put off this kind of task indefinitely. Better to put together what I have -- and can readily fill in -- right now, and then go back to the regular research.
In other news, I was intrigued by a recent story in the San Francisco Chronicle, “Detective work tracks earliest Bay Area films,” by Edward Guthmann (Datebook, Dec. 6, 2010).
David Kiehn is a movie historian who works at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. In research for his book “Broncho Billy and the Essanay Film Company,” he used techniques we genealogists know well. (Essanay made began making films in Niles, California, in 1912.)
He needed more photographs than he could find in the usual historical repositories so began hunting for living relatives of Essanay cast and crew members named in the “Broncho Billy” film. And where did he look? Well, the California Death Index for one, then obituaries, census records, and city and telephone directories. The result, he said, was that he found living descendents in 50 families and was able to obtain about a thousand relevant photographs.
Kiehn was featured on “60 Minutes” a while back, with a silent film he brought to light, “A Trip Down Market Street.” His sleuthing established that it was taken four days before the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. (To date it he studied weather reports and vehicle registration records, among other things.)
And happy sleuthing to you!