I have to say that I really enjoyed Craig Manson's post "Greatest Genealogy Find Ever" over at Geneabloggie. In fact, I spent way too much time on his great site this morning but it was time not wasted as far as I am concerned. I don't know why I didn't have Craig over on my blogroll but now I do!
The post got me to thinking about what one or two things I would designate as my greatest finds in terms of my family's history. This was easy for me since it is a small booklet that launched me on this journey about 12 years ago.
The item: The Genealogy of David Putman and His Descendants, by G.W. Putman, 1916. A pdf copy can be found here.
Growing up, I had heard "rumors" of this magical book that contained my great-grandfather John Ralph Austin's genealogy going all the way back to the 1600s. I always imagined some large, fancy tome bound in leather with gold letters, perhaps a brass clasp. Too Harry Potter, right? Well imagine my initial disappointment when in 1995 my mother presented to me a small 6 x 4" pamphlet of about 60 pages. Cue: Peggy Lee singing "Is That All There Is?"
Well, good things do come in small packages. It turns out that this tiny book was one of only 100 copies published in 1916 by George W. Putman, who was my 2nd cousin 5 times removed. The entire research process for G.W. began when a distant cousin had asked for information on the family's Putman branch of ancestors.
Since there was not much information available, G.W. began a journey not unlike my own, but with much more rudimentary tools. As he states in his Prefatory Letter on pages 5 and 6, he began by writing to the Post Masters of various small towns in upstate New York asking if they had any residents with the last name Putman and, if so, to kindly send him the names and addresses. I'd like to see someone try to do that nowadays! Many far-flung relatives responded to G.W. and sent details as to ancestors and descendants.
But since this research format is really not using documented first sources, I knew I would have my work cut out for me. However it did provide me with a framework to use. Over the years I have found glaring errors, some of which tend to be duplicated by other Putman researchers.
This is one of the items of my family history that I treasure the most. And it is safely tucked away now that I have copies available online to use when performing my research.