I recently ordered the book "History and Genealogy of the John and Rosella Smith Family" by John L. Poling. I received it directly from Mr. Poling. I expected a book of a few bound pages of plain text with just a photograph or two if any. Imagine my surprise when I opened the package and held in my hand a nicely spiral-bound book of a whopping 236 pages, over half with at least one photograph and many pages had more than one picture. It is in larger, easy-to-read print too.
The book is arranged in eleven chapters so if you are a descendant looking for your particular family group, or if you are sitting at the family table engaged in animated discussion of family tree lines, you can jump up and dive right in and find what you want fairly quickly. Mr. Poling explains how he came about a lot of his info, and his numbering format too. So if after reading this book, you feel inspired to do your own genealogy on your own family line, here are some good hints how to get started and proceed, which I find a real bonus.
About a half century ago, I was adopted out of my family. Now, on a personal note, I don't mind having been adopted--at my age I realize that bad things happen to good people and good families. They just do and always have. I also don't mind being raised away from my family although my heart gets heavy when I think of the fact that I spent my first 22 years within an hour of three or four HUNDRED biological relations. What I DID mind was not KNOWING I had family out there somewhere. I thought I was all alone in the world, a real orphan (it is my opinion at least in modern USA, that real orphans are very rare. Most of us are stuck with at least one of the parents who brought us into the world...). Perhaps had I known what I later learned, I wouldn't have been so much of an underachiever (any excuse will do, you know...). Also, my children and grandchildren were cut out of a good chunk of their genealogy, family tree and genetic database. I could go on for hours--days even--about the struggle between the rights of biological parents and the rights of adoptees, but I will stop here.
In 1999, I hit the Internet and started researching my family tree--on WebTV, no less, does anybody out there remember WebTV LOL. The larger part of my father's side of the family has been insanely well researched and published, thanks mainly to people just like Mr. Poling. THEY were easy to find, my mother's side not so much. A big problem, which budding and professional genealogists are well aware of, are the omission of names of mothers and wives from family trees. Sometimes the information was lost, and sometimes I think the particular compilers just didn't care. I was a lucky one---I managed to get an original copy of my birth certificate--not an easy task for your average adoptee by the way. From there I got my father's name, and it just so happened he was the only person born with that name at that time in that state---in the whole USA actually. I found him easily mainly because he had already died and was part of the Social Security Death Register. From there, I was able to trace my male-line surname family back to 1500 A.D. or so. What I was NOT able to do was find out who a goodly number of my grandmothers were. In some cases, there is a first and maiden name, her parents and so on. But sometimes there is only a first name, and I have more than my fair share of 'unknown' in my family tree--and one mere '1st wife'.
And so, the first thing I checked in this book was documenting of the female lines. Mr. Poling is exemplary in this and I wish more researchers were like him. In almost every case, he documents name, maiden name, and parents and he does this even when there is a first, second, third (and at least once, fourth) wives. I like to think that someday a hundred or more years from now, some young bride or mother-to-be is going to pick up this book and be very happy to read, perhaps with her young sons or daughters, about her grandmothers and ggg grandmothers and so on.
I won't reveal where, but somwhere in the book is a picture of the author in a family group photo, and one paragraph about himself. Happy hunting.
There aren't a lot of family anecdotes, like one my family likes to tell about our ggg grandaunt who was cooking in the kitchen one day and a bear tried to break in and she beat it off with her rolling pin. I can see why there wouldn't be, because the book is already 236 pages long. But a lot of information IS included such as military history---and of the women too--and some employment background. This last can be important because from information just like this, I discovered that before my maternal grandparents met and married, THEIR fathers had worked together at the same factory, now long gone (the fathers and the factory). And of special import to an adoptee like me, and to descendants a hundred years from now, is that Mr. Poling documents many burial places, and there are even some gravestone photos included. For those of us that never got, or will never get, to meet them in life, we can at least meet them in death and pay our respects. We should be ever mindful that without them, we would not exist. He mentions at least once that a family member adopted a child, and another family member married a girl with three children and raised them as his own. This kind of family history makes a book worth reading and worth sharing and worth saving, and perhaps the chronicled stories of these people might inspire someone else someday.
People that meet through genealogy do so many times in a roundabout way, and I am no exception. One of my grandfathers married a girl, and I only knew her first name. I finally found her maiden name. Then I put up a query and some really kind reseaacher took pity on me I guess and found her parent's names from FamilySearch.org. I fed the father's name into the search at Ancestry.com and that led me to a family tree contributed by Mr. Poling. He and I are descended from a pair of sisters. Because he so dutifully chronicled the women of his family, I was able to find and to add to my family tree something like 70 new names. Though we are only cousins, finding this family line means a lot to an adoptee like me, we take anything we can get.
I wish to take a moment here to mention the 100-year rule and non-paternity when it comes to family trees and histories. As you look over a family tree, bear in mind something that genealogists and geneticists know but don't talk much about: that 7 or more percent of fathers aren't really the biological fathers of their children. (Sometimes the fathers know, sometimes they don't)The percentage of occurence is higher or lower in any given family tree. Researchers keep mum about it because they really need answers to their queries as they track down families looking for ways to prevent and treat illnesses that have a genetic component, or eliminating a genetic component. They want to develop treatments and tests that save lives, minimize suffering and restore individuals to well-being and productivity. It is for reasons like this that I encourage and exhort folks that get contacted by family researchers to contribute what they can, and for researchers and compilers to gather and publish what they can. It may be a hundred or more years from now, but one little piece of family info you give or publish can make a difference toward a treatment or cure, or save a life, someday.
The 100 year rule is an unwritten rule (and on some sites it is ENFORCED) that researchers don't indiscriminantley publish material less than 100 years old, or about living individuals. (Family chronicles like this book don't apply because they are written by family, and only family really would care about the information in them). This protects unwed mothers, or someone from a very bad first marriage they don't want anyone to know about, or any number of family ills. A hundred years gives people a chance, after life throws them a curve ball, to live their life and accomplish what they need to. A view of Mr. Poling's tree on Ancestry.com shows he is very scrupulous about recent information. I exhort anyone who obtains a book like Mr. Poling's---and there are plenty out there already who knows maybe I'll write one myself some day---to treat the personal information in it with the same respect that he has.
There is a LOT more information in the book than there is on his site. I also know he has more information than what is in the book. Many family chroniclers throw up their hands and walk away after five, ten, or twenty years; they've had enough and want to move on. I hope Mr. Poling will continue to research and publish. If more members of family lines--the pair of sisters we descend from also had other siblings--could gather together photos, documents, and family stories, perhaps we could beg, cajole, tease, bribe or threaten Mr. Poling to either publish a whole new book with new material, or publish a supplement.
We hope it never happens, but we know from experiences like mine that it does--years from now, perhaps a hundred, a little sheep gets separated from the fold and returns a few decades later in search of family history. You and I , dear reader will be gone but books like Mr. Poling's will be here, ready and waiting to answer their questions 'who am I and where did I come from'.
A barrel of orchids to Mr. Poling for a job well done.