Thanks to Kathleen at Moore-Mays.org for this one: The Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn. I have been using the Green-Wood Cemetery website for researching my husband’s families, but it didn’t occur to me that The Evergreens would also have a searchable database. I am really beginning to get into Brooklyn research the way I am into Southern research.
This week Marian Pierre-Louis asks “Where Do You Turn for Research Guidance?” and starts the list, which is filled out with lots of good resources suggested in the comments. From another angle, however, I have been musing this week about how we can learn research techniques from published family narratives. I happen to have three: John Philip Colletta’a Only a Few Bones, which I am currently reading; Steve Luxenberg’s Annie’s Ghosts, which I read recently; and Leslie Albrecht Huber’s The Journey Takers, which I read a while back (and which is currently loaned out, so I do not have it in the picture and have to recall the details - probably imperfectly - from memory).
It is interesting to compare the different approaches the books take in presenting their research and what can be learned from them. All three have end notes and all devote separate sections to distinguish the “dramatis personae.”
The narrative part of Colletta’s book is almost exclusively occupied by the story he uncovered in his research, with both posited and documented details, and only occasional mentions or hints of the sources and evidence behind the story. It is an interesting story, but for anyone researching in the locations where the story is set the goldmine is in the extensive endnotes. The endnotes paint an equally fascinating picture of how wide a researcher actually has to cast his or her net to get the whole story.
Luxenberg incorporates his sources and techniques into his story, though the endnotes elaborate on the sources and provide additional historical background. We genealogists and family historians often think of ourselves as detectives, and Luxenburg’s tale is a variation on this - in this case, we have a researcher who has the skills of/thinks like an investigative reporter. In addition to listing a few rather surprising sources, Luxenburg drives home the other essential quality genealogists/researches must have in addition to analytical skill: persistence - persistence in the face of obstacles, persistence in spite of discouragement, persistence when confronted by evidence that gives the lie to everything you thought you knew, and persistence to the point of chutzpah when necessary.
Leslie Albrecht Huber’s The Journey Takers picks up the themes of persistence and casting our nets wide and moves them into the realm of space and time, i.e., taking the initiative to go as far afield as you need to - to your ancestor’s homeland - and, as the years pass, to stick to following your ancestors’ paths, despite the interruptions of “real life.” She studies the language (German) of some of her ancestors, visits as many ancestral locations as possible, and immerses herself in their lives of long ago, even when the present persists in trying to pull her away.
So in addition to techniques, all three books point to a kind of ultra-commitment to the pursuit of our ancestors, something like the extreme effort put forth by the best athletes: do as much as you can and then do more, find everything you can find and then search some more, immerse yourself completely.