A phone call from a friend brought to light a “I don’t know what to do with this stuff” dilemma.

The newcomer to family research had died without ever organizing his notes and documents. The surviving spouse had no idea what to do with the assortment of papers found in several different places throughout their house.

Actually, it was apparent that the researcher had tried to organize the different families, but it was done in such an unconventional manner that it was almost impossible to understand the order of the families.

It also became apparent that the researcher was “collecting names” with little logic as to whether they might fit into the family or not. While this isn’t always a bad idea, it can become very confusing to a newcomer to genealogy— and often leads down a wrong path. The most disconcerting part of this was the lack of any documentation. Among his papers were many pages copied from books, but no title of the book, no author, or where the book was found.

I agreed to help sort and organize the papers as best as I could. During this process, I kept thinking to myself, “I wish he had asked for someone for help.”

One of the things this Society’s volunteers try to do is assist patrons who come to Special Collections and want to start researching their families. While we can’t do the research for them (that would be taking away all the fun), we can offer guidance and suggestions in how to take those first steps.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! If only my friend had asked . . .