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The USGenWeb Project News
Volume 5, Number 1
January 2008

Where to Draw the Line?
by Everette Carr

As county coordinators for USGenWeb, we have all had to draw a line on how much, if any time, we would devote to doing research for others. Many CC's solve the problem early on by posting a statement to the effect that they do not do any research for other individual researchers/family historians.

Few of us have a personal library filled with material for the counties we host. We often have less research material than the average researcher as he or she have a hand full of names to research and we have an entire county or counties, as is very often the case.

If it were not for material submitted by others, I would have very little original data to post. I live in Pennsylvania and the counties I host are in Mississippi, the state of my birth and the state where my ancestors ultimately settled.

I have not posted any disclaimers on my site. My attitude is that if my limited resources might help a researcher, then I should at least take a quick peek to see if there is anyway I can be of assistance. More often than not, I have little or nothing to add. I do occasionally get a little peeved when the information is already posted to the county site, knowing that if the researcher would just explore a little they would find useful information. But I usually try to point them in the right direction.

I am sure that we all have a photographic section on our sites where we post family photographs. Usually, these old photographs come to us with little information other than who is in the photo and how they are related to the submitter. Frequently, if there are a number of people in the photo, the submitter knows only a few of the names. I usually post these with a query and ask viewers to try to name those unknown individuals.

But more often than not, I try not to post a photograph without benefit of the story surrounding the people in the photograph. Who are they? Where did they come from? Who was his or her parents? The questions one can ask are virtually endless and I try to fill in the pieces as best I can. I query the submitter and get what information they can supply. But I can't stop there. I know if I use the resources available on the Internet there is always more to be known. Perhaps this is just my hang up, but I bet many other CC's are curious and I bet many go that extra mile and try to put flesh on the bones.

One example of this can be illustrated by the submittal of a photograph of Garrett C. Gowan and his wife, Martha Trousdale Gowan. The submitter provided the photograph and some very basic information. The haunting photograph of Garrett and his young bride was too much. I had to know more. The researchers that visit my county site deserved more. I spent considerable time researching the family and filling in the blanks. I was pleased and proud of the results. The Gowan family was appreciative of my efforts. The submitter and I have become frequent correspondents on a variety of subjects that interest us both. The Alexander Gowan family can be found here: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~msattala/alexandergowanfamily.html

The Oliver J. Ward family presents a similar situation. The great great grandson of Oliver contacted me and asked if I had any information on his ancestors. No photo, very little information; I really don't recall what it was that caught my attention, but I created a page for the Ward family using little more than census records and a school photograph to put together a page paying tribute to an early settler in Attala County, Mississippi. See the Ward family: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~msattala/ward.html

Lastly, I offer the example of Judge Jason Niles. Judge Niles was a prominent individual in Attala County, but very little information about him appeared on the county site. Yes, he was the author of a well-known diary that was posted, but of him, there was very little. So from what information I could gather, I created a few pages that document his life. Jason Niles: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~msattala/jason_niles.html

So to those that do not do genealogy for others; I would suggest that sometimes the submitter needs some help and sometimes it is to the benefit of the County Coordinator and the visitors to the county site to spend a little time putting flesh on the bones.

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