Sunday, April 11, 2010

Thomas Jefferson DeGraff

A couple years ago I started volunteering for a website called One of the main things that volunteers do for this website, is to go out and take pictures of gravestones for people who are far away and can't visit their family members resting place. This is an excellent genealogical resource, completely on volunteer basis.

The first time I went out "hunting" was for a gentleman buried here in town named Thomas Jefferson DeGraff. All I knew at the time about him was his name, the cemetery he was buried in, and that he might have been involved somehow here in town with Bonnie & Clyde. That's where I started.

I had received an email from FindAGrave saying that someone was requesting a grave photo of Mr. DeGraff's gravestone. I did a little background work on him before going to the cemetery, as I was quite interested about the Bonnie & Clyde part of his story. In this research both on the internet and in our local library I found that Mr. DeGraff was a detective here in Joplin, that found where Bonnie & Clyde's hideout was. He also was there the day that the raid on the apartment happened, and survived. I was even more intrigued after finding all of this out. Through I went to my research at the library and on the internet, I was able to get her a photo of him, dozens of newspaper articles, including his obituary, his death certificate,and pictures of the Bonnie & Clyde exhibit at our local musuem. When I made my trip tothe cemetery, I got his stone photo, and also found his wife next to him and was able to get that information for the relative who had requested the photos. She was thrilled.

So, why am I telling you this story? To tell you that the important thing about genealogy is working together. We don't all have a perfect family tree, already filled out for us with all of the information that we could possibly need right there for us. And we don't all have the money to hire professional genealogists. Plus that would take away half the fun! What we can do is work together with this huge network of family historians all across the globe at the ready and able to help out a fellow historian.

Please, go check out and consider becoming a photo volunteer. I can't tell you how many family members I have only seen their graves through this site. Not only is it a great genealogical resource, but it makes it to where I can visit that family member's resting place and leave virtual flowers anytime I want, without the cost of driving to the cemetery.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Who Cares?

It has occurred to me that many people don't care about family history. My own grandmother, upon being asked questions about our ancestors has told me that if I didn't know them myself, and if they aren't alive now, I shouldn't worry about digging too much up. It just doesn't matter...

How are we to know who we are, where we are going, unless we know where we come from? I myself love digging into the past and finding out little snippets about my ancestors, or anyone for that matter.

My real journey in genealogy began in December of 2008 with the death of my husband's grandfather. I was interested before then, but I didn't have any money, and no leads, so I really didn't do much with it, because I didn't think I could. When our dear Grandpa Old passed away, we started going through his house, dividing up his belongings among the children and grandchildren. I was completely blown away at what people just were going to throw away. By the time we had gotten there, for the funeral, they had already gone through his desk and file cabinet, and thrown almost everything away! All that was saved was a small file folder labeled "Genealogy". I saw that laying there and I began to beg for them to let me have it! Of course, since none of the others wanted any of it, they let me. I asked if I could have the pictures as well, as there was a suitcase full of old, old, OLD pictures, and they said that they would be taken home by one of the children and then divided up after that. Over the next few months, we made several other trips to the house, to bring home things that others would have thrown away, including Grandma & Grandpa's college diplomas (which are now proudly hanging in my office).

Since then, I have bought Family Tree Maker, traveled to countless cemeteries, begun working with and as a volunteer for both, done countless hours of work in libraries and in front of a computer, and I still have not come very far. But, I know my ancestors, and my husband's ancestors on a greater level than I did before... so have I found success? I'll let you ask yourself that... Is success found in finding the most number of ancestors? or in getting to know the ones that you already have found?